Sunday, September 30, 2012

John Calvin on God's justice and the predestination of those who fall

How can God be just or fair in condemning those who deny him to eternal damnation when it is God himself who predestined them to fall in the first place? 

A friend asked me this question recently. I didn't know how to answer, so I told him to give me some time to look into this. I turned to Calvin to see if he has addressed this. Indeed he did. 

I'll paste Calvin's take on this issue below. The blue-italicized is my preface to each point. The bold-italicized are emphasis that I added on Calvin's original writing. The following section is from Book 3, Chapter 23:4, in John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (USA: Hendrickson, revised edition, 2008), p. 627-628:

[The questioner asked isn't it unjust for God who has predestined people to fall to condemn them as if they are responsible for their own fall?] 
Were not men predestinated by the ordination of God to that corruption which is now held forth as the cause of condemnation? If so, when they perish in their corruptions they do nothing else than suffer punishment for that calamity, into which, by the predestination of God, Adam fell, and dragged all his posterity headlong with him. Is not he, therefore, unjust in thus cruelly mocking his creatures?

[Calvin's reply] 
I admit that by the will of God all the sons of Adam fell into that state of wretchedness in which they are now involved; and this is just what I said at the first, that we must always return to the mere pleasure of the divine will, the cause of which is hidden in himself. But it does not forthwith follow that God lies open to this charge. For we will answer with Paul in these words, "Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20, 21).

[Calvin's foresaw the questioner would suspect that the God Calvin understood is arbitrary in term of justice]
They will deny that the justice of God is thus truly defended, and will allege that we seek an evasion, such as those are wont to employ who have no good excuse. For what more seems to be said here than just that the power of God is such as cannot be hindered, so that he can do whatsoever he pleases?

[Calvin replied to this suspicion by asserting that God's justice is mysterious and final. It may appear unjust to us not because God is unjust but because of our inability to understand it. To draw a simple and imperfect analogy: Parents know that going to school is good for their children. So the parents force their kids to school regardless of what the children think about school. To the children, their parents are not good in sending them to school. However, we know that the little children's judgement can not measure up to their parents. Therefore we should not conclude that the parents' judgement is not good simply because the children think that their parents are not good.]
But it is far otherwise. For what stronger reason can be given than when we are ordered to reflect who God is? How could he who is the Judge of the world commit any unrighteousness? If it properly belongs to the nature of God to do judgment, he must naturally love justice and abhor injustice. Wherefore, the Apostle did not, as if he had been caught in a difficulty, have recourse to evasion; he only intimated that the procedure of divine justice is too high to be scanned by human measure, or comprehended by the feebleness of human intellect. The Apostle, indeed, confesses that in the divine judgments there is a depth in which all the minds of men must be engulfed if they attempt to penetrate into it. But he also shows how unbecoming it is to reduce the works of God to such a law as that we can presume to condemn them the moment they accord not with our reason. There is a well-known saying of Solomon (which, however, few properly understand), "The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool and rewardeth transgressors," (Prov. 26:10). For he is speaking of the greatness of God, whose pleasure it is to inflict punishment on fools and transgressors though he is not pleased to bestow his Spirit upon them. It is a monstrous infatuation in men to seek to subject that which has no bounds to the little measure of their reason. Paul gives the name of elect to the angels who maintained their integrity. If their steadfastness was owing to the good pleasure of God, the revolt of the others proves that they were abandoned. Of this no other cause can be adduced than reprobation, which is hidden in the secret counsel of God.

Whether we agree or disagree with Calvin's handling of this issue, we must at least understand the coherence of his thoughts on this matter. It seems to me that Calvin is pretty coherent here.

Of course, coherence does not mean true. One simply need to read Chapter 10 of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function (USA: Oxford University Press, 1993) for a good exposition on the limitation of the criterion of coherence. Nonetheless, what is coherent does give itself some weight for being something thinkable, if not believable.

Do you still disagree with Calvin even after understanding the coherence of his view? If yes, do share why?

51 comments:

Wesley Wong said...

Did the someone also ask if God sins if He is the Ultimate Architect of sinners damnation?

Yik Sheng Lee said...

Personally, I think we have misread Romans 9 especially reading predestination from a contemporary sense instead of Paul's highly Jewish contextualization of Romans 9 and 10. And this created a problem that never was in Paul's mind.

Jason said...

I don't disagree with Calvin. But I do not think his answer will satisfy the inquirer, however coherent his answer is. There will always be the charge of "you'll evading the answer" or "wah, you say like that. you win liao"(singlish/mandarin) when Christians tried to explain that there are things which are a mystery, or we are not able to fully understand it because only God alone knows.

It is logical and coherent, but it will not satisfy. And if we try to resolve this question by discarding predestination and going on to "Free will", then we also have another problem - the problem of "why then did God allow it if He knows we will fall?"

Well, after giving all the ten-year series answers, I supposed it'll still have to end up with a "you win liao" answer. I'll probably say, "well, if God hadn't created us in the first place, then you and I wouldn't be having this conversation at all." (then start running away before the next debate on creation pops up). Have a blessed day folks.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Wesley Wong,

No one has asked that yet. But since you asked, I think Calvin is firm that God doesn't sin. As shown in my post post, what appears to us as sinful (due to our inability to understand) may not be so to God in his hidden counsel.

By pointing to Proverbs 16:4, Calvin affirms that everything, including what appears to us as evil things, happens because God has arrangement it. (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 23:6)

And Calvin emphasizes that God's glory includes his justice. Hence when humans fall according to God's predestination, we fall by our own fault. "...man's own wickedness corrupted the pure nature which he had received from God..." (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 23:8)

Calvin also said that to those who want to seek "the origin of their condemnation, they turn their view to the hidden recesses of the divine counsel, and wink at the corruption of nature, which is the true source. They cannot impute this corruption to God, because he bears testimony to the goodness of his creation." (Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 23:9)

So to Calvin, God doesn't sin even when he has ordained what happens in the world can be mistakenly interpreted as sinful by us.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Yik Sheng,

I think it is not entirely a misreading. Reason is because the Jews in Paul's time were also debating about the issue of predestination in the language of 'divine and human agency'. For example, Sirach emphasizes on human agency (free-will), while Hodayot emphasizes divine agency (God's predestination of everything) that overrule human's will.

Jason Maston has a book on this, while John Barclay and Simon Gathercole have edited a volume on it.

Do check them out :)

http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Agency-Second-Temple-Judaism/dp/3161505700

http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Environment-Library-Testament-Studies/dp/0567084434

Sze Zeng said...

Jason,

hahahaha... you win liao!

Augustine has his own way of saying "you win liao".

"How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, "What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?" I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). "He was preparing hell for those who pry too deep."
(Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 12:14)

Sze Zeng said...

Jason, correction on what Augustine said. What I pasted was him recalling what someone had said, not what his own opinion. :)

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

You mentioned that 'And if we try to resolve this question by discarding predestination and going on to "Free will", then we also have another problem - the problem of "why then did God allow it if He knows we will fall?" '

Not a problem at all because the reply can be:

God wanted to build a future community of genuine loving beings, and for that to happen, the only way is to allow free will and to accept the consequences that due to free will. In other words, God accepts that some/many will choose evil and will be lost/gone/destroyed in the end. And then those who remain will form the eschatological community of loving beings.

A secondary remarks will be that God does not know every detail of the future but he is a grand chessmaster who can shape the future without knowing the future exact moves of others.

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,
I appreciate your reply because I have wrestled with such questions before and have answered it in similar ways.

However, no matter how good the answer may seem(at least to Christians), there will still be many holes which a non-believer can poke at. I'll use your answer as an example,and me thinking/asking as a non-believing person.

"God wanted to build a future community of genuine loving beings, and for that to happen, the only way is to allow free will and to accept the consequences that due to free will."

Me: "Are you saying that God used me as a pawn in this big cosmic game of His of building a loving community? What am I? a Lego brick?"


"In other words, God accepts that some/many will choose evil and will be lost/gone/destroyed in the end."

Me: "If He knows some/many will choose evil, then why did He create us with free will in the first place? Couldn't he have make it perfect from beginning to end?"

etc. and the debate can go on. we don't finally have the perfect answers to tough questions but we have reasonable and coherent ones like yours or Calvin's. In that sense, there is still a "problem".

about your statement "...God does not know every detail of the future but he is a grand chessmaster who can shape the future without knowing the future exact moves of others.", well, I used to tinker with this but I don't think I can fully agree with it if God is all-knowing(including the future and future moves). Can't remember the term for this theological idea, (give back to lecturer liao) perhaps Sze Zeng can elaborate more on this if worth discussing. cheers.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

The term u "gave back" to the academy is omniscience.

But God is omniscient need not mean that God knows exactly what you would eat next year this date. God is omniscient can mean that God knows all that is logically possible to be known. (and if knowing the future in the sense of able to "see" the future events in a crystal ball is illogical - then this aspect would be unknowable even to God)

This is similar to omnipotence: God is omnipotent does not mean that God can draw a round square on a piece of paper.

I am going to sleep now... will continue with u another day

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

First, let me refer to the idea in "If He knows some/many will choose evil, then why did He create us with free will in the first place? Couldn't he have make it perfect from beginning to end?"

A god being all powerful (omnipotent) means this god can do all things that is logically possible to be done, and does not mean this god can do things that are logically impossible (e.g. drawing a circular square on a piece of paper). So indeed one can say that the Christian god could not have made it perfect from the beginning to the end. It is impossible to create robots or puppets with genuine love. Genuine love requires an appropriate level of freedom in exercising choices. Hence either god creates robots with no potential for choosing evil or god creates "free will" beings. So if the Christian god wants a future community of loving beings to be formed, he has no choice but to create "free will" beings.


Next, I refer to d idea in "Are you saying that God used me as a pawn in this big cosmic game of His of building a loving community? What am I? a Lego brick?"

We are not a lego brick (inappropriate analogy) as the lego brick is like a robot, totally have not free choices of its own, totally subjected to the will and fancies of the players. We are beings who uses our "free will" to make choices and shape our destinies and our world. It will be like parents (slight analogy to god) "creating" next generation of human beings (i.e. giving birth to children). The children are not lego bricks, but rather beings who can, at least in a very large extent, shape their own destinies.

We are not pawns of our creator god precisely because we can choose our own way and not cooperate with the god of Jesus.

Those who choose evil and overtime shaped their own character to become evil-personified will finally be punished after a just judgment in a way analogous to true criminals being punished via judgment by the human courts. This is fair and just because the evil beings are responsible, and they are responsible because in the first place they have exercised their choices via their "free will". Those children who later in their adult life chose the path of being rapists, robbers or murderers cannot complain about why their parents gave birth to them. The cause of their punishment is not their parents' having unprotected sex which resulted in their birth; the cause of their punishment is their own choices in choosing the path of a rapist/robber/murderer.



Jason said...

Hi reasonable,
about your post on omniscience, the term I "gave back" to the academy is "open theism".

I have wrestled with it (and there are many books and essays on this topic - for and against) and like I said, I don't fully agree with it.

it seems to me that the God of the Bible is presented in the Bible as a God who knows the past, present and future. While it may be possible for God to "limit" himself to "not know the future" as some proponents of open theism would say, Scripture is pretty silent on this, and consistently point to a God who knows all things - including the future (and yes, that includes what you will eat at this time of the year, not that it really matters).

When we say that "God is omniscient can mean that God knows all that is logically possible to be known", it presents us with the problem of "who or what then determines what is logically possible to be known."

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,

thank you for your responses. it's good. but like I said, anyone who is out to get a perfect, and all-satisfying answer (and according to his view) will create an endless debate. I'll respond here to showcase why the debate can be endless.

"It is impossible to create robots or puppets with genuine love"

me: don't create puppets/robots. but perfect beings who will not sin and can love genuinely. don't tell me it's impossible because your bible say folks in heaven are perfect. I don't supposed they are robots, are they?"

"So if the Christian god wants a future community of loving beings to be formed, he has no choice but to create "free will" beings."

Me: no, he has a choice. he could have either not create human beings (and spare them all the suffering) or perfect beings.

"Those who choose evil and overtime shaped their own character to become evil-personified will finally be punished after a just judgment in a way analogous to true criminals being punished via judgment by the human courts. This is fair and just because the evil beings are responsible, and they are responsible because in the first place they have exercised their choices via their "free will".

Me: I am not an evil person. But even then, you Christians say that I am evil just by not believing in the Christian god and I'm heading to hell. Is that free choice or a forced free choice? I think it's forced.

"Those children who later in their adult life chose the path of being rapists, robbers or murderers cannot complain about why their parents gave birth to them. The cause of their punishment is not their parents' having unprotected sex which resulted in their birth; the cause of their punishment is their own choices in choosing the path of a rapist/robber/murderer."

Me: the problem is, I can choose the path of being a goodie, a doctor or social activist, and still end up punished just because I don't call my parents "pa and ma". Don't seem very just to me.

etc. I hope this shows us why a fully satisfying answer is out of our grasp. A reasonable answer, yes, a fully satisfying one, not really.

so that's probably why "The Bible nowhere attempts to prove or argue for the existence of God. The Bible announces its awesome theme in four opening words:"In the beginning God." The Bible assumes that "God is there and he is not silent. (Francis Schaeffer)." (Daniel L. Akin, A theology for the church, p.179)

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

A number of separate issues are involved. I need time to sit down to properly deal with your various points. So far none of the "objections" raised by your hypothetical non-Christian could be answered very rationally with reasoning common to both Christians & non-Christians.

The Christian bible does portray a god who does not know everything of the future. That god has a "future-prying crystal-ball capability" is an external idea impose upon the bible. More about this in my next one or more commentary posts.

Will write one or more proper commentary posts to deal with the various points raised by you when I am free either later or the next two days.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

I would love to respond to various points in your comments including all those points raised by your hypothetical non-Christian. I will find a block of uninterrupted time within these 2 days to do that. Those "objections" are due to that hypothetical non-Christian's lack of sufficient understanding of Christianity or Christianities.

Also, the god portrayed in a number of biblical text is a god who does not know at least part of the future. Only when one first adopted an external idea of a certain version of omniscience then can one "explain-away" those text that points to a god who does not know everything of the future.

Using the version of omniscience to refer to the ability to know all that is logically possible to be known would be consistent with those biblical text that portrays god not knowing part of the future. More on this and other matters in my next one or more posts in the next two or three days.

reasonable said...

I made a typo in my comment on October 3, 3:24pm that made a sentence said the opposite to what I intended.

The second sentence 'So far none of the "objections" raised by your hypothetical non-Christian could be answered very rationally with reasoning common to both Christians & non-Christians.' should instead be:

'So far all the "objections" raised by your hypothetical non-Christian could be answered very rationally with reasoning common to both Christians & non-Christians.'

geoffist! said...

Very well stated, Jason.

I'm reluctant to chime in because i know where these conversations go. However, I must address one issue of contention.

I find it fallacious to assume that the only way in which God is able to obtain a "genuine community" is by granting free will. On the contrary, Scripture disagrees and would say if left to our own devices, humankind would never choose God.

On the other hand, it seems fitting that (in my feeble attempt to answer for God), He must have predestined some to believe - otherwise such a community would never exist.

Is God predestining some to believe less genuine? And, furthermore, how can such a position be presumed?

reasonable said...

Hello Jason,

I crafted my responses below as a conversation between your hypothetical non-Christian and myself.


1. Mdm non-Christian’s says: “don't create puppets/robots. but perfect beings who will not sin and can love genuinely. don't tell me it's impossible because your bible say folks in heaven are perfect. I don't supposed they are robots, are they?"

Reasonable says:
Apparently the biblical text did not say that the beings in heavens were created perfect. My use of “puppets” and “robots” are metaphorical tools to tell u that the only way for beings to be guaranteed to always reject evil and always choose goodness would be when they lack the capacity to make genuine choices. They would be just like robots or puppets, lacking proper true love. It is impossible to have genuine loving beings without free will just as it is impossible for this god to draw a circular square on a piece of paper. Hence God has to create beings with free will to go through an environment where they would exercise free choices for evil or good, so that over time they would slowly move towards the direction of the good or the direction of the evil/selfish/non-good.


2. Mdm non-Christian says (in response to my statement ‘So if the Christian god wants a future community of loving beings to be formed, he has no choice but to create "free will" beings’)
“no, he has a choice. he could have either not create human beings (and spare them all the suffering) or perfect beings. “

Reasonable says:
As my statement said, if the Christian god has decided to have a community of loving beings, then GIVEN THIS DECISION, the option not to create beings with free will like human beings would no longer be an option, just like if you have already decided to travel to Geylang Lor 16 in an hour’s time, then the option of not going to Geylang Lor 16 in an hour's time is no longer an option as long as the decision remains unchanged. And as said earlier, it is impossible for true love to exist in beings that do not have the capacity to choose not to love. Only when we have beings like human beings who can choose to love and choose not to love, then can there be the possibility for these beings to become beings with genuine love.

reasonable said...

3. Mdm non-Christian says: “I am not an evil person. But even then, you Christians say that I am evil just by not believing in the Christian god and I'm heading to hell. Is that free choice or a forced free choice? I think it's forced. “

Reasonable says:
Just as there are different Buddhist understanding of Buddhism, there are also different Christian understanding of what Christianity is, or you can call it Christianities if you like. I agree with you that some versions of Christianity, or some Christianities (probably this include the version believed by geoffist! who posted a comment here), do not make good sense and also probably have a mistaken understanding of Reality.

What I am doing here is to let u understand a version of Christianity that makes good sense, does not contradict the biblical text, and is probably closer to the truth in direct relation to ultimate reality.

(to be continued in next commentary post)

reasonable said...

continuation of point 3



From the perspective of this rational/sensible version of Christianity, ultimately people are accepted by the god of Jesus not because they are Christians. Many Christians would be rejected by their god (to their surprise, just as those in Matt 7.21-23 would be surprised). At the same time, many non-Christians would be accepted by their god, to the surprise of many Christians (some in a not too different way that the elder brother is surprised by the father who accepts the prodigal son in one story that is said to have been told by Jesus). People are accepted not because they have become perfectly good, but because their character has developed in a way that they have become quite good, and their developed character now has the disposition towards the good. Many of these people may not have embraced Christ before their physical death, but when they see Christ or the Truth face to face one day after their death, they would naturally and genuinely embrace the Truth and love the Truth/Christ, because that is the disposition of these "quite good" people's developed character. And all the benefit of embracing Christ and all the benefit of TRUE submission to Christ would go to these people (whether you call it the forgiveness from Christ’s atonement work or other hypothesis of personal salvation). There will also be many others, both Christians and non-Christians, who, when they see Christ face to face, would at most only submit to Christ in fear without any true love for truth. These people would at most submit to Christ out of selfishness. These behaviours are not true submission and these actions are not true repentance and they are not true acceptance of the god of Jesus and hence they would be rejected on account of their lack of true repentance – those who deserved to be punished would be punished accordingly, and those who do not deserve to be go through suffering/punishment would just be made into nothingless – they simply gone into non-existence and are simply no more. Among those who are accepted by the god of Jesus are those non-Christians and Christians who truly love the truth and truly embrace Christ when they see him face to face, or when they have a direct encounter with Truth. So in this sense, it is true that all who are finally accepted are accepted because they embrace Christ and truly love truth (and they finally see that the truth is the god of Jesus), while at the same time all who are truly on the path of goodness are accepted by the god of Jesus even though they were not Christians before their physical death. Both of these concepts are held together and there is no dichotomy between them. They are both sides of the same coin. So those who are on the path of goodness would not be rejected by the god of Jesus; in the end their character would make them genuinely embrace Christ when they encounter him directly after their death and then all their imperfections would be forgiven. But all those who are not on the path of goodness (whether they are Christian or non-Christian) would be rejected by the god of Jesus. They would perish and be destroyed one way or the other, whichever way that best meet justice in accordance to their situation. Each one of them will be dealt with differently in a fair manner. The perfect judge who can see the secret motives in the heart will judge in a perfectly fair way, and will also punish in a perfectly fair way.

So it is really a free choice for you. Each day your choices will slowly form you towards goodness or towards selfishness/evil. These choices will form your habit, and habit will slowly form your character, and your character will shape your ultimate destiny - whether you would be perished/destroyed or whether you would be welcome into the community of loving beings.

reasonable said...



4. Mdm non-Christian says:
“ the problem is, I can choose the path of being a goodie, a doctor or social activist, and still end up punished just because I don't call my parents "pa and ma". Don't seem very just to me.”

Reasonable says:
The god of Jesus is not like that what you just imagined. See what I said above. The god of Jesus is just, and you will not be punished just because you happened not to have the conviction that the true god is the god of Jesus. In the end, it is your character development that will shape your destiny, for your character development will in the end determine whether or not you can have a genuine love for truth when you encounter the truth face to face.

reasonable said...


Hi Jason,

a. Regarding the idea contained in these statements:
“so that's probably why "The Bible nowhere attempts to prove or argue for the existence of God. The Bible announces its awesome theme in four opening words:"In the beginning God." The Bible assumes that "God is there and he is not silent. (Francis Schaeffer)." (Daniel L. Akin, A theology for the church, p.179)”

Reasonable says:
The inanimate non-living object called the bible cannot attempt to do anything. Only the authors of the various documents contained in the bible could attempt to do anything. These authors did not attempt to argue for the existence of god because the different specific circumstances surrounding the different authors did not call for them to write out an argument for the existence of god. That problems they found pressing upon them was other problems and hence they wrote to deal with other problems.



b. Regarding the idea contained in the following statements:
“it seems to me that the God of the Bible is presented in the Bible as a God who knows the past, present and future. While it may be possible for God to "limit" himself to "not know the future" as some proponents of open theism would say, Scripture is pretty silent on this, and consistently point to a God who knows all things - including the future (and yes, that includes what you will eat at this time of the year, not that it really matters).”

Reasonable says,
Apparently, nowhere in the biblical text contradicts the idea that the god is omniscient in the sense that he knows everything that is logically possible to be known, and he does not know anything that is logically impossible to be known. Perhaps you can cite some text that clearly, explicitly and unambiguously contradict the omniscience that I have just described.


c. And regarding the idea below:
“When we say that "God is omniscient can mean that God knows all that is logically possible to be known", it presents us with the problem of "who or what then determines what is logically possible to be known."

Reasonable says:
We do not need to have clear or full understanding of a concept in order for a concept to be true. For example we do not have a full and clear understanding of god, yet that does not mean that one ought not to believe in god merely for the reason of a lack of a clear and full understanding. We do not need to reject the concept of baldness just because we do not have a precise criteria for baldness (e.g. not knowing what is the maximum number of strands of remaining hair there should be in order to declare a person as bald). One simple guide for what is logically impossible would be the law of true non-contradiction. One cannot be and not-be in the same sense at the same time, for example.

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,
thank you for your effort in the make-up conversation. I won't continue with more responses because like I said, I can continue to poke holes in your responses.

I'll like to however, find out more from you regarding certain theological ideas you have.

1.point 3: "while at the same time all who are truly on the path of goodness are accepted by the god of Jesus even though they were not Christians before their physical death"

I'll like to see you supporting this idea from scripture. Would like to ask if u've encountered various verses that said otherwise.

2.Point 4: "you will not be punished just because you happened not to have the conviction that the true god is the god of Jesus. In the end, it is your character development that will shape your destiny"

Ditto. I'll like to see you supporting this idea from scripture. Would like to ask if u've encountered various verses that said otherwise.

3."Apparently, nowhere in the biblical text contradicts the idea that the god is omniscient in the sense that he knows everything that is logically possible to be known, and he does not know anything that is logically impossible to be known. Perhaps you can cite some text that clearly, explicitly and unambiguously contradict the omniscience that I have just described."

Like I have asked you previously, you have not answered or define clearly what it is "logically possible or impossible for God to know". I'll actually like to see you support this idea (of what God logically can or cannot know) from scripture.

The bible gives us a clear picture of God's omniscience in that He knows all things-including the future(if that is what you meant by logically impossible). e.g. ps 139:16 and all the prophecies that have been said and fulfilled. including Judas' "doom to destruction" and Peter's martyrdom. According to your idea, I will have to assume all these are logically possible for God to know. So what are the logically impossible things?(you seem to say it's the future in your previous posts (grand chessmaster and crystal ball exmaple)) I'll like to hear from you what is logically impossible for God to know.

4.“When we say that "God is omniscient can mean that God knows all that is logically possible to be known", it presents us with the problem of "who or what then determines what is logically possible to be known."

Reasonable says:
We do not need to have clear or full understanding of a concept in order for a concept to be true. ...One simple guide for what is logically impossible would be the law of true non-contradiction. One cannot be and not-be in the same sense at the same time, for example."


We do not need to have a full understanding in order for us to believe a concept to be true, but we do need a clear understanding in order for us to believe a concept to be true. If we're not clear who God is and what the gospel is, what kind of God are we then believing in? We have to be clear about this at least.

Regarding this "One simple guide for what is logically impossible would be the law of true non-contradiction. One cannot be and not-be in the same sense at the same time, for example."

Sorry, this explanation and example is too ambiguous and unhelpful. As I've asked earlier, I would like to see scriptural support for "who or what determines what is logically possible (or impossible) to be known." or at least on what is logically impossible for God to know. Does scripture shed light on this? If yes, please show me the various verses/passages. Thanks.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

I will find a block of uninterrupted time to respond to your latest comments. Meanwhile, can you help me with the following:

As you said,"[t]he bible gives us a CLEAR PICTURE of God's omniscience in that He knows all things-including the future(if that is what you meant by logically impossible). e.g. ps 139:16..." (emphasis mine). Can you give, in addition to Ps 139:16, three to five verses among the best biblical verses that clearly, unambiguously and explicitly show that God knows all the events in the future (i.e. God knows future events in the sense that what He knows include details like what every living human beings would be eating next year on 13 Oct 2013 during lunch time).

Thank you. :)

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,
I'm not so sure if you're looking for a FULL picture or a CLEAR picture of God's omniscience in that He knows all things. By clear, I am saying the Bible consistently points to a God who knows the future - this is clear not by using a few "proof" verses if that's what you're looking for; rather the many various passages on prophecies and the fulfillment of them. this display quite clearly that God is more than capable of knowing the future. I don't think I can find for you a verse that said, "Thus said the Lord, He shall know what you eat for lunch in 50 years time."

But if we can accept the many prophecies that were told and fulfilled - a wide range of time even many hundreds of years - we can at least have some confidence that God does know the future, and if He so chooses, He can tell us what we will eat on a particular day in October.

Still, if you require verses, here are a few. 1 John 3:20; Ps 139:1-6; Job 37:16; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Sam 2:3

chin said...

Hi,

"How can God be just or fair in condemning those who deny him to eternal damnation when it is God himself who predestined them to fall in the first place?" I believe in answering this question accurately, we need to address the the assumption in the question:

Is God himself who predestined man to fall in the first place?

No and therefore the question cannot stand.

Yik Sheng Lee said...

wow ... so much of conversation Josh, sorry I did not follow up.

What I meant earlier is that I believe, no doubt just my own reading of Romans, the predestination referred to by Paul was very contextually interpreted within his simultaneous engagement with both Jews and Gentiles, where what he was arguing was that the Jews, as the elected or predestined people of God (by grace), was subsequently dealt faithfully by God in that whom (the Jews) He had chosen, He saved, even though it's only the remnants of the predestined who were being saved. So, I believe that any subsequent contemporary teaching of predestination based on these passages in Romans should be grounded on the original contextual meaning in which Paul wrote. 2 cents. ;-)

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

I managed to find time to write only these. Will find another time to address other aspects of your previous commentary post.


My thesis on omniscience is simple:
There is absolutely no biblical text that contradicts the idea that god does not know every detail of what is going to happen in the future.

Secondly thesis: there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories, such as some stories that have been understood by some readers as fulfillment of prophecy) that clearly or unambiguously show that god has a crystal-ball view of all future events.

So far none of the biblical verses supplied by Jason shows my above main thesis and secondary thesis to be wrong.

For example,

Ps 136:9
Psalms are generally poetic literature expressing the emotions and prayers and wishes and beliefs of the authors. Sometimes hyperbole is used. Psalmist passages should not be taken to construct a theological picture of god. For example, we have psalmist who believe that the right thing to do is to dash the enemies’ infants against the rocks. This should be seen as an author expressing his state of mind and not representative of the mind of god.


Does the fulfillment of any prophecy shows that god has a crystal-ball view of future events? Not at all. Certainly it is equally possible that God knows that certain things would surely happen due to God’s decision to control some affairs to ensure certain events to take place. That means, sometimes god knows that a person would become a great leader because god has determined to carry out some interventions to ensure that to happen.


The free will model combined with open future view model can explain this way:
For any passage that talks about God knowing some event would take place, it is due to god’s determination to carry out actions to ensure those events occur, including the possibility of suspending some person’s free will for those matters. So if god declares that his people’s enemy will be defeated within a year, this perspective would say that god using his power to intervene to ensure the enemy of his people would be defeated. God is confident that this would happen because no one is more powerful than him to prevent him from ensuring that. And no one is wiser than him to prevent him from doing things to ensure the defeat of the enemy of his people. Fulfillment of prophecy can be seen this way.

Another way god knows some things are about to happen because he can read the minds of people. When a child decides to crush an ant on the table, god knows that the ant is going to be crushed within the next minute because god can read the mind of that child.

Unless evidence is produced to show otherwise, we can conclude that there is no biblical data (be it direct verses or through stories such as fulfillment of prophecies) that contradicts the idea that god does not know all the things that are going to happen in the future.

Biblical data could not really help us to determine which theological system is correct:
1. god knowing all detail events of the future
2. god does not know all detail events of the future

A person adopting system 1 would explain away biblical data that seem to contradict his system 1.

A person adopting system 2 would explain away biblical data that seems to contradict his system 2.

To determine which system is problematic and which system seems unproblematic, one has to use philosophical analysis.

System 1 would run into philosophical difficulties very soon while System 2 would survive a long journey without facing any major obstacles.

I should be talking about philosophical problems of system 1 in one of my next few posts. I have to do this another day.

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,
here are some responses while I wait for the others.

“There is absolutely no biblical text that contradicts the idea that god does not know every detail of what is going to happen in the future.”

There is also absolutely no biblical text that says we can’t do drugs. While I’m not saying your thesis is impossible, I’ll like to see support from scriptures - as mentioned in previous posts.

“there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories, such as some stories that have been understood by some readers as fulfillment of prophecy) that clearly or unambiguously show that god has a crystal-ball view of all future events.”

I do not know how you define clear. Should I say that if no one can find me a text that unambiguously said that doing drugs or committing suicide is wrong, therefore it is alright to do so because “there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories)”? I do not find this kind of argument to be very helpful. If those verses that I’ve given are not clear enough, at least they lean close enough for the idea that God does know all things.

“Psalmist passages should not be taken to construct a theological picture of god.”

Then we should stop reading Psalms, and take the Psalms out of the canon because it does not give us the right picture of who God is. Perhaps it is better to say, “Not all psalmist passages should be taken literally to construct a theological picture of god.”

”...we have psalmist who believe that the right thing to do is to dash the enemies’ infants against the rocks. This should be seen as an author expressing his state of mind and not representative of the mind of god.”

You’ve already mention hyperbole.

“The free will model combined with open future view model can explain this way: For any passage that talks about God knowing some event would take place, it is due to god’s determination to carry out actions to ensure those events occur, including the possibility of suspending some person’s free will for those matters... Fulfillment of prophecy can be seen this way.”

Okay. According to your explanation, can I say that God suspended Adam’s and Eve’s freewill so that they sin, in order for the prophecy of the need for a Messiah to be fulfilled? Because “For any passage that talks about God knowing some event would take place, it is due to god’s determination to carry out actions to ensure those events occur”, so for the prophecy of the Messiah to be fulfilled, God has to ensure man must sin because He did not know man will fall; this is to ensure that the event(the coming of the Messiah) would take place.

Biblical data could not really help us to determine which theological system is correct:
1. god knowing all detail events of the future
2. god does not know all detail events of the future


A lot of things can’t be determined in the sense of “correct” as in “I have the final answer”. There is enough mystery left for us because we are not God. The question is, “Which one is closer?” when we read the Bible. Does the Bible point more toward system 1 or system 2? Again, I’ll like to see you pointing to scriptures(direct, stories, whatever) that at least point us toward system 2.

System 1 would run into philosophical difficulties very soon while System 2 would survive a long journey without facing any major obstacles. I should be talking about philosophical problems of system 1 in one of my next few posts.

I am not sure what you mean by “philosophical analysis”. There are a lot of ways to explain away things or to explain difficult questions. But I’ll like to see scriptural support for explanations. Looking forward to hearing from you.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

While I am still trying to get an uninterrupted block of time to respond to the other parts of your commentary posts, I will like to leave you with one side comment: it is true that it is not wrong to commit suicide per se. (as you seemed to have said, the Christian bible does not clearly or unambiguously forbid it). But it is not merely because scripture did not unambiguously forbid suicide that makes it morally ok for one to commit suicide. When something is ok to be done, it can be done without any moral blame whether or not scripture permits it to be done. This can apply to both Christians and non-Christians. This is a side-comment which can open a can of worms to begin a long series of discussions on epistemology but I think we focus back on "free will" theological model combined with the "open non-existent future" theological model (and hence none can have any crystal-ball view of what is non-existent). I mentioned this side-comment since you asked about committing suicide.

Jason said...

Hi reasonable,

My comments on drugs and suicide is not a question about them or intended to deviate from the current topic. It is merely an illustration to show that an argument (and derived conclusion) based on “there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories...that clearly or unambiguously show that god has a crystal-ball view of all future events.” is not very helpful (unless further explained.)

To give you another illustration based on your statement, one can make a conclusion that it is okay to rape his own father because “there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories...that clearly or unambiguously show that god forbid the raping of one's own father.”

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

As I mentioned, what one morally ought to do or morally ought not to do is not dependent on whether or not any biblical text explicitly forbid or permit it to be done. You may have missed the logic of what I said previously. Biblical text is quite irrelevant to what one morally ought to or ought not to do. So our current Christian bible is not helpful for the things about rape, drug, suicide etc. It is to some extent helpful about the topic on the nature of the god of Jesus.

-------

While there is no passage that talks about God having a crystal-ball view of all future events, there are passages that points to God not knowing some future events. Example:

Jeremiah 3.6-7
Then the LORD said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. 7 I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.”

Yahweh revealed to the prophet that he was surprised that the Israelites did not respond in the way Yahweh himself thought they would respond. Yahweh should not be seen as pretending not to know (as some crystal-ball theists may claim), because Yahweh need not pretend to himself – this mistaken expectation is within the thought process of Yahweh, according to the narrative. This necessarily implies that Yahweh did not know in advance how the Israelites actually responded.

---

Isaiah 5.3-4
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4 “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce ]worthless ones?

Here god expected one thing but the actualized outcome differs from his expectation. This naturally implies that Yahweh did not know in advance the outcome.

---

And there are also passages on god regretting his actions, god changing his mind and a number of other matters which one can refer to other journals and books.




Jason said...

Hi reasonable,

I don't think you catch what I'm trying to say through the illustration, so never mind.

I will use the same kind of argument you used, and show why this debate is going nowhere and not profitable.

Jeremiah 3.6-7...Then the LORD said to me...“Have you seen what faithless Israel did? ... I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it

using the same kind of argument you used, I can say(without any need to justify my means from scripture) that Yahweh is relating to the prophet in human terms. He's not really saying he doesn't know. he's speaking this way to get the prophet to understand the situation before sending him to proclaim it in v12. (I am not saying this is a correct way to interpret or explain scriptures but we will get this kind of explanation if we try to explain away prophetic fulfilment as "God doesn't know what will happen but determine something to happen and that is why there is fulfillment of prophecy")

On Isaiah 5.3-4. I can say:
1. It is poetic literature so we can't take it literally.
2. It is a rhetorical question. God is not really saying he doesn't know. He's expressing his frustration.

And lastly, for both verses, I can say "“there is no clear biblical text (be it direct verses or be it stories...that clearly or unambiguously show that god does not have a crystal-ball view of all future events." since in both instances of your explanation, you said, "implied".

And there are also passages on god regretting his actions, god changing his mind and a number of other matters which one can refer to other journals and books.

Yes, many. There are also many for and against journals,books on open-theism(the current debate topic we're having, or a variant of it). So we're probably getting nowhere on this debate. You can continue to stand on your side of the fence, and me on the other. :)

But I'll really like to hear your views on: "while at the same time all who are truly on the path of goodness are accepted by the god of Jesus even though they were not Christians before their physical death"

and

"you will not be punished just because you happened not to have the conviction that the true god is the god of Jesus. In the end, it is your character development that
will shape your destiny"


when you have the time. Thanks.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

You said: “Scripture is pretty silent on this, and CONSISTENTLY point to a God who knows all things - including the future (and yes, that includes what you will eat at this time of the year, not that it really matters).” and “ The bible gives us a CLEAR picture of God's omniscience in that He knows all things-including the future”

From the above, your view is that the various documents in the Christian bible
(1) CONSISTENTLY
and
(2) CLEARLY
point to a god who knows all future events including what every living person will eat on all the dates in next year’s calendar.


1. The Christian bible does not CONSISTENTLY points to a god who knows all future events
----------------------------------------------------------------------

I have listed a few verses in which the text per se was talking about the god Yahweh not knowing in advance of the outcome of some events. This means that it is not true that the bible CONSISTENTLY points to a god who knows all things including what every living person will eat on all the dates in next year’s calendar.


2. The Christian bible does not CLEARLY points to a god who knows all future events
----------------------------------------------------------------------

You have provided some verses that supposed to clearly/consistently points to a god who knows all future events in the sense that this god knows even free will events like what all living persons will be eating for lunch on all the dates in next year’s calendar. Let us look at the verses your provided:


(a) 1 Chronicles 28.9
‘As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.’

That god knows all hearts and knows the hidden motives and intention has nothing to do with whether or not god knows all undecided events of the future.

This verse is irrelevant to our topic of discussion.



(b) 1 Samuel 2.3
‘Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.’

“Yahweh is a god of knowledge” in this context is a warning to people that they need to be careful of their actions and attitudes for what they do will not escape Yahweh’s notice/knowledge and Yahweh will hold them accountable. Nothing in this verse is about Yahweh knowing all future events including free-will undecided events.

This verse does not CLEARLY talk about Yahweh knowing all future events including free-will undecided events.

(to be continued in next commentary post)

reasonable said...

(continuation from previous)

c. 1 John 3:20
‘in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.’
In the context, clearly this God knows all things refer to god knows all that is in our heart including our secret or even deeply hidden motives/intentions, and nothing about god knowing all future undecided free will events. What one says god can do all things, what is implied is that god can do all things that all logically possible to be done, and not that god can do logically impossible things such as drawing a circular square on a piece of paper. That god cannot draw a circular square on a paper does not negate the truth that god can do all things. Similarly, that god knows all things implies that god can know all things that are logically possible to be known, and does not include things that are logically impossible to be known, such as god not knowing the colour of the Nokia phone in my pocket because I do not owe a Nokia phone. Not knowing the colour of the Nokia phone in my pocket because such an item is non-existent in my pocket does not negate the truth that god knows all things. In a similar way, god not knowing non-existent undecided free will events does not negate the truth that god knows all things. Nothing in this verse requires god to know non-existent matters such as the non-existent Nokia phone in my pocket or the non-existent events that are not yet decided by the free will of free will agents. That is why in some biblical text (I have quoted two in my previous post) we have the Christian god thinking that a certain event would turn out one way but in the end it turned out in a different way. The past and present events exist, but future undecided free-will events are non-existent. Future decided events are the only events that can be treated as existent.

This verse does not CLEARLY talk about Yahweh knowing all future events including free-will undecided events.



d. Job 37:16
‘Listen to this, O Job,
Stand and consider the wonders of God.
Do you know how God establishes them,
And makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?
Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds,
The wonders of one perfect in knowledge’

Yahweh being “perfect in knowledge” in this context is about god’s knowledge on how all these nature-wonders works. It is not talking about whether or not future non-existent undecided free-will events is knowable. Yahweh can be said as perfect in power even though he cannot draw a circular square on a piece of paper. Perfect in strength does not mean that Yahweh must be able to do nonsensical things or logically impossible things. That Yahweh cannot draw a two-dimensional circular square does not negate the truth that Yahweh is perfect in strength. Perfect in knowledge does not require Yahweh to know nonsensical stuff or to have logically impossible knowledge, such as knowing non-existent stuff (such as my non-existent Nokia phone in my pocket or non-existent events that free will minds have not decided whether or not to carry out). (see my point c above)

This verse does not CLEARLY talk about Yahweh knowing all future events including free-will undecided events.


(to continue in next commentary post)

reasonable said...

(continuation)


e. Psalm 139.1-6
‘O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.’

Again, the psalms are generally expressing the struggles, anger, sadness, happiness, hope, and other emotions of the various writers and we must also be aware of hyperbole used to express psalmists’ state of mind. Hence psalms should not be used to arbitrate between different positions on doctrinal issues.

Nevertheless, even if one were to use the above the above verses, one should note that the above verses are only about Yahweh’s knowledge of all the psalmist’s movements and thoughts. Before the psalmist says out actual words, Yahweh already knew what the psalmist was going to say because Yahweh can read the mind of the psalmist. The “know it all” when read in this context refers to all the preceeding actions of the psalmist such as his sitting down and rising up, where he goes and where he lies, what he thoughts and attitudes are. All these verses is not about whether or not Yahweh knows all undecided events of the future.

reasonable said...

(continuation)

f. Psalm 139.16
(u mentioned Ps 139.16, but I list out below Ps 139.13-16 to give the immediate context)
‘(v13) For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
(v14) I will give thanks to You, for [j]I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
(v15) My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

The key verse would be the next verse, verse16.

A literal translation that correspond word for word to the Hebrew is:

(v16) My unformed --- have seen --- your eyes --- and in---your book---- were all--- written---the days---were formed/ordained/planned---not----one

.....

What exactly “were all written” and what exactly “were formed” were not supplied in Hebrew.In the Hebrew language, grammatically and syntactically,
(i) the things that “were formed” can refer to either the psalmist’s unformed bodily substance or the days
(ii) the things that “were written” in the book can refer to either the psalmist’s unformed bodily substance or the days

For those who choose “days” to be the things that “were formed” and also “days” to be the things that were “written” in the book, then verse 16 can become like this:

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were formed/determined/ordained/planned
When as yet there was none of these days


For those who choose the psalmist’s “bodily substance” to be the things that “were formed” and “bodily substance” to be the things that were written. Verse 16 can become like this:

(v16) Your eyes have seen my unformed bodily substance
And in your book all they (my bodily substance) are written
And even the days that they (my bodily substance) were formed
When as yet there was none of these bodily substance [when as yet there was none of them]


But immediate context which starts from verse 13 onwards is about god knowing the innermost bodily parts of the Psalmist, about god wonderfully constructing the Psalmist, so it would fit the context to choose the psalmist’s “bodily substance” to the be things that “were formed” and “bodily substance” to be the things that were written.


Psalm 139.16 is thus ambiguous and NOT CLEAR. It is not obvious whether it is talking about bodily parts that were already written in god’s book before these bodily parts were formed, or whether it is talking about the days were already written in god’s book before the days arrived.

In short, Psalm 139.16 does not CLEARLY teach about god knowing all undecided events of the future.


(to be continued)

reasonable said...

(continuation)

Psalm 139.16 is thus ambiguous and NOT CLEAR. It is not obvious whether it is talking about bodily parts that were already written in god’s book before these bodily parts were formed, or whether it is talking about the days were already written in god’s book before the days arrived.

In short, Psalm 139.16 does not CLEARLY teach about god knowing all undecided events of the future.


Now, even if one were to choose the translation to be ‘Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written the days that were formed/determined/ordained/planned when as yet there was none of these days’, it does not mention whether god knows about those days because he has a crystal-ball view of the future, or whether god knows about those days because god has determined in advance to intervene in that psalmist’s life to ensure those events take place. If it is the latter, then it would simply be a case where god knows what he has decided to do, and he knows that what he has decided to do would take place because no one else is powerful enough to stop him. Nothing in this text requires it to mean that god knows the psalmist’s future because god has a kind of crystal-ball view of the future. It will be a case that if god is determined in advance to make the psalmist to become king one day, then it would surely take place since none can stop him, and so in this sense god knows that particular psalmist would become king one day due to god’s own unstoppable determination to carry it out.

So again, even if one were to adopt the translation where the psalmsit’s days were written before they were formed, then it still does not have more than 50% probability to mean god has the crystal-ball view into the future.

It is like a case of mathematics: the square root of 4 need not be positive 2. It can equally be negative 2. So this text need not imply that god has the ability to know all undecided future events including the sort about what every living person will eat on the dates in next year’s calendar. This text can imply that god knows those aspects of the future which he has determined in advance to make it happen.

And the passage did not talk about god knowing everyone’s future. If one were to choose the translation where days are written in god’s book before they are formed, it is merely only talking about god knowing THAT PSALMIST’s future and not everyone. God knows that psalmist’s future due to god’s determination to closely intervene in that particular psalmist’s life to bring about those events determined by god. But there is absolutely no biblical evidence that god determines every single little bit of event-detail of every single person’s life. God intervenes in some people’s lives to make them into prophets and apostles so that he shapes the overall movement of human history towards his planned objective. Such dramatic divine interventions are not typical of everyone.

We must also not forget that the psalmist is expressing his emotions – his feeling of being known by god very intimately and hence hyperbole language is a possibility. This again should caution us not to rely on such psalms to give us a correct metaphysical nature of god.

In the end, one should seethere are many layers of problems to claim Psalm 139:16 clearly points to a god who knows all undecided future events. The better translation would be to see that it is the psalmist’s bodily substance as the things that were written in god’s book before these bodily substance were formed.


The conclusion: Psalm 139.16 does not CLEARLY teach about god knowing all undecided events of the future.


reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

I list down a few different translations here:

(v16 21st Century KJV) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuity were fashioned, when as yet there were none of them.

(v16 NASB) Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me, [note: in the original Hebrew, there is no “for me”. “for me” is added by NASB]
When as yet there was not one of them.

(v16 Young’s Literal Version) Mine unformed substance Thine eyes saw, And on Thy book all of them are written, The days they were formed -- And not one among them.


(c16 Wycliffe Bible) Thine eyes saw my imperfect substance, and all was written in thy Book; but when those days were formed, no man was there.


(v16 Webster's Bible Translation)
Thy eyes saw my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.


(V16 KJV) Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.


(v16 Darby Bible Translation) Thine eyes did see my unformed substance, and in thy book all my members were written; during many days were they fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.


(v16 Aramaic Bible in Plain English ©2010)
And my eyes saw my germination upon your Scriptures; all these things were written; behold, the days were cut short, and there was no person in them.


(v16 English Revised Version) Thine eyes did see mine unperfect substance, and in thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.


The conclusion: Psalm 139.16 does not CLEARLY teach about god knowing all undecided events of the future.

Jason said...

Hi Reasonable,

“your view is that the various documents in the Christian bible
(1) CONSISTENTLY
and
(2) CLEARLY
point to a god who knows all future events including what every living person will eat on all the dates in next year’s calendar.”


I’ve already mentioned there are hundreds of prophecies which for you are not consistent, not clear, not direct and not unambiguous enough because you explained prophecy with your own view and conveniently chucked them away as non-evidence.

“I have listed a few verses in which the text per se was talking about the god Yahweh not knowing in advance of the outcome of some events.”

I have already answered your verses on this.

“You have provided some verses that supposed to clearly/consistently points to a god who knows all future events in the sense that this god knows even free will events like what all living persons will be eating for lunch on all the dates in next year’s calendar.”

As I’ve already said, the prophecies are enough to point clearly and consistently, and not by usage of “proof verses”. I supplied those verses because you wanted something. Refer to October 5, 2012 1:08 AM post for full context of why I provided those verses.

(a) 1 Chronicles 28.9, (b) 1 Samuel 2.3
That god knows all hearts and knows the hidden motives and intention has nothing to do with whether or not god knows all undecided events of the future.


God’s omniscience-his comprehensive knowledge of all that was, is, and ever shall be-is a corollary of his eternity. It is not too far-fetched to say the God who knows all hearts is able to know all past, present and future events.

reasonable said...



Hi Jason,

I did not claim that the bible clearly teaches that god does not know part of the future.

You on the other hand claimed that the bible clearly teach that god knows all events of the future, including undecided events like what every human beings would be eating for lunch on various dates next year.

As I have said before in one of my previous posts, people can choose one of the theological system, and then would explain away verses that seem to contradict their theological system. Hence by studying biblical data alone there is no clear cut refutation of each other's differing theological systems.

As I have also said, one good way is to look at the contrary systems philosophically (or look at it beyond biblical data), and see which system run into more problems or more serious problems.


Having said the above, I must point out that the biblical data supporting the partially unfixed future view is more direct than those biblical data that seem to support the divine crystal-ball view (where all of the future is fixed and unchangeable).


Compare How Open Theists Treat Crystal-ball theists’ Supporting Text with How Crystal-Ball Theists Treat Open-Theists’ Supporting Text
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Compare how open theists treat opponent’s supporting biblical data with how crystal-ball theists treat open theists’ supporting biblical data:

Partially-unfixed future theists (open theists) dig in to BRING OUT THE MEANING (exegesis ; they dig in to dig out) of the crystal-ball theists’ supporting biblical texts to show that those text were not saying anything about god having a crystal-ball view of all future events, while fully-fixed future theists has to bring in external elements (e.g. by importing EXTERNAL HYPOTHESIS such as god was pretending, god was speaking in human terms and did not really meant he changed his mind etc) to DENY the literal meaning of biblical text. These crystal-ball theists bring things from outside to cover up or to deny the literal meanings of these biblical texts.

Partially unfixed-future theists expose the meaning of text while Fully-fixed future crystal-ball theists cover up the meaning of the biblical texts (text says god regretted his actions but they say god did not really regret; text says god did not expect that outcome but cystal-ball theists said the text did not really meant what it literally meant).


Comparing the Quality of Supporting Biblical Texts
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The data supporting partially-unfixed future theists is more direct: in the literal sense of the text, god thought one thing but it happened differently, god expected one thing but outcome was not what he expected, god regretted some of his past actions, god changed his mind, etc.


Compare to those biblical data that people use to support that divine crystal-ball view: NONE OF THOSE DATA explicitly or implicitly talked about god knowing all undecided events of the future. At most those data only showed god knew certain specific events of the future, but not all events.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, these biblical data did not indicate whether god knew about these events due to god's determination to carry them out (some similarity to Calvinistic predetermination) or was it due to god having a crystal-ball view of all the events of the future.

In that sense the biblical data contains some statements which, when read literally without importing some external ideas, would explicitly support the partially unfixed open future view.

However the biblical data do not have any statement that, when read literally, gives explicit support to the divine crystal-ball view.


reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

All these while our discussion is base on a temporary assumption that the various documents in the bible must have a unified non-contradictory view of god.

In actual fact, this need not be. Different authors can have different and even contradictory view of god.

All authors of the biblical texts are fallible and imperfect. They can have fallible and mistaken perception of the character and nature of god.

And we should not pressed stories too far. The story of Adam and Eve need not be taken as historical. It serves its point and that is it.

Nevertheless, since you asked about how free will can deal with Adam & Eve sinning - their sin can be seen as totally due to their own free will. There is no need to postulate a hypothesis that god need to suspend their free will. There is also no need to bring in the assumption that god knew in advance that Adam and Eve will sin due to him having a crystal-ball view of the future. God knows the nature of free-will, and thus it is easy to know then sooner or later someone will choose evil, be it Adam and Eve personally or one of their future generations. It does not need to take divine intelligence to know that.

But we are taking this Adam & Eve myth too far away already, making it serve not what it meant to serve.




reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

I wanted to but forgot to address your statement that
"We do not need to have a full understanding in order for us to believe a concept to be true, but we do need a clear understanding in order for us to believe a concept to be true."

We do not need to have a clear understanding in order for us to believe in a concept to be true. Many believe in the idea that god has a crystal-ball view of all the events of the future without a clear understanding what that really means. Their idea of such a crystal-ball omniscience is hazy. They think that god can peep into the future to see a future calamity that would happen to His people, and then tell a prophet to warn his people so that his people can avoid that future calmaity that he saw in his crystal-ball view. But a clear understanding of such crystal-ball omniscience would make them realise that god would not have any freedom to alter the future if such a theological system is correct. No warnings can be given by god as a result of him able to see the future like seeing the future in a crystal-ball.

Take for example a person has a crystal ball and when he looks into it, he saw that in an hour's time he would be entering a lottery shop to bet on the numbers 1234 and no other number. Then when he look further into the future, he saw that on the lottery-draw date tomorrow, the actual first prize goes to the numbers 1233 and he missed that prize because he did not buy 1233. So now he says to himself, "When I go to the lottery shop in the next hour, I shall bet on 1233 instead of 1234." If the future really can be seen, then there is no way that he can go and bet on 1233 instead of 1234. If he can, then the future is not fixed but open. If the future is not open, then whatever he sees must take place.

In a similar way, if the divine crystal-ball theological system is true, it is impossible for god to do anything to change anything of the future that he sees in his crystal-ball mind. He could not summon up prophets to warn His people against future calamities in response to certain future scenes He sees. He can raise up prophets to warn His people if and only if his act calling up prophets to give warning is already shown in his crystal-ball mind prior to this. God can only enact what was shown in the crytal-ball mind. God cannot choose not to enact anything that was shown in the crystal-ball mind. God cannot do anything that is not already shown in the crystal-ball mind. God cannot make choices.

In terms of sequential logic, a random event's outcome must happened before knowledge of that actualised outcome. Is god able to make a free-will choice? Logically god must come to the point of having reached decision before he knows what that decision is. Before he finished the process of making a decision, he should not know what the decision is. So there was in this logic sequence a stage/phase where god does not know the future event of what his decision would be. That means god does not know future free-will undecided events until a decision has been made. This implies that god does not know future events which has not be decided upon by free-will minds (whether his own or others'). But if there is no logical phase where god does not know what is the outcome of his free-will deliberations, then god can never have any true freedom of having a process of deliberation to make choices as all choices would have been known beforehand.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

If we do not bring in external hypothesis to deny the literal meanings of the relevant verses, then the literal meanings of those texts that says god thought an outcome will occur but in the end it was a different outcome, that god regretted his actions, that god changed his mind, and so on, then all these must upon logical necessity (i.e. there exists no other logical options) implies that god did not know some of the future events.

It is only when people starts to deny the literal meanings of these biblical text then can people deny that god does not know some of the future events.

Meanwhile, those instances of truly fulfilled prophecies (minus away those not truly fulfilled ones and minus away those too general type of fulfilled prophecies and minus those that are due to god's wise probabilistic assessment due to his full knowledge of past and present things) can point to two equal possibilities (there is no biblical evidence to show which of these possibilities is more probable):

either
(1)god can see all the events with a kind of divine crystal-ball mind, or
(2) god knows certain events would take place due to his unstoppable determination to ensure the occurrence of those events

Hence I did not deny those passages or biblical data that you mentioned to give support to a fixed-future view. I simply show that these passages, BASE ON WHAT THEY LITERALLY SAY, has no necessary logical implication to the crystal-ball fixed future view.

But those passages used by partially-open future theists are such that their literal meanings have the NECESSARY logical implication that god does not know some things of the future. The only way to go around this is to assert that these passages do not mean what they literally mean.
(i.e. god expected a different outcome from the actual outcome does not really mean that, god regretting his action does not mean that, god changing his mind does not mean that).

The IMPORTANT QUESTION is: on what ground does one deny the literal meaning of things like god expected a different outcome from the actual, god regretting his actions, god changing his mind?


I understand that we do not take it literally that god has arms when a passage talked about "god's strong arms". We understand this is a metaphor to express god great power (whether to strike the enemy or to protect his people). We understand in those cases what meaning those metaphors were trying to convey.

But if we call god having wrong expectation, or god regreting, or god changing his mind as metaphors or anthropomorphic or speaking in human terms, then what meaning are these so-called metaphors trying to convey?

It seeems that there is no good exegetical reason to take passages that speak about god's unfulfilled expectation, god regretting and god changing his mind as metaphoric.

Perhaps crystal-ball fixed future theists asserted that these passages are not literal because their literal meanings contradict their philosophical assumption about god. I say that it is their PHILOSOPHICAL assumption because there is NO LITERAL BIBLICAL STATEMENTS that teach, or has the force of logical necessity to imply, that god has a crystal-ball view of all undecided events of the future.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

If one is to be a consistent divine crystal-ball theist, one must pray to god to change the past.

Because if his theological system is true, then the future is as fixed as the past already. If he prays anything about events of the future, he must as well pray about events of the past.

reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

Can you clarify:

"As I’ve already said, the prophecies are enough to point clearly and consistently"

Q1. Is fulfilled prophecies are your only evidence or best evidence that is clear enough to show that god knows all future events including undecided events such as what people eat next year in October?

Q2. Why a fulfilled prophecies necessarily mean that it is due to god having a crystal-ball view of the future and therefore knows even all undecided events of the future? Why is there no equal degree of possibility for it to mean that they are fulfilled due to god's active intervention to ensure that those events take place?


You said that "God’s omniscience-his comprehensive knowledge of all that was, is, and ever shall be-is a corollary of his eternity."

Q3: why must god's knowledge of all undecided future events be a corollary of his eternity? Is that merely an assumption? Or do you have any evidence for it?


reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

U said "It is not too far-fetched to say the God who knows all hearts is able to know all past, present and future events."

It is very far-fetched to say the above. It is as far-fetch as to say God knows the colour of the Nokia phone in my pocket now when there is no Nokia phone in my pocket now.

God knows all that is past and present and knows part of the future (those decided events and perhaps those very probable events) is very different from god knowing UNDECIDED future events which are non-existent. (Decided events are in existence in the minds of those who have determined and decided and who has unstoppable ability to carry them out.)

Undecided future events are non-existent as the non-existent Nokia phone in my pocket, so god does not know, just in the same way as god does not know what colour is the non-existent Nokia phone in my pocket.

The real difference between open theists and crytal-ball theists is this:

The former claims that the future undecided events are non-existent as much as my Nokia phone is non-existent, and hence god does not know those non-existent events as much as god does not know the colour of the non-existent Nokia phone in my pocket.

The later claims that the future undecided events are already in existence as much as the past are already in existence. The future is just as unchangeable as the past.

There is no diminish of god's greatness when god cannot change a past event (e.g. undo the 2nd World War) just as there is no diminish of god's greatness when he cannot know the non-existent undecided events.





reasonable said...

Hi Jason,

Here is a story:

A professor said that his personal favourite number is a number x such that the square of x gives 4.

Though mathematically this would mean that x can either be -2 or +2, crystal-ball theists insisted that x must be -2.

Partial open-future theists had a chat with the professor and heard from the professor that x is +2.

When partial open-future theists told the crystal-ball theists that they heard the professor said x is +2, these crystal-ball fixed-future theists responded by saying that the professor did not seriously meant that x is +2. According to these crystal-ball theists, the professor said x is +2 to accommodate to the lower-level mind of partial open-future theists who are not comfortable with negative numbers. According to the crystal-ball theists, even though the professor said x is +2, what the professor really meant is that x is -2 but the professor did not say that so as to accommodate to the listeners who were not comfortable with negative numbers.

To insist that fulfilled prophecy must only imply that god has a crystal-ball mind that can view all events of the future and to deny the other possibility that fulfilled prophecy can be due to god's interventions to ensure the prophecy is fulfilled is like insisting the square root of 4 must only be -2 and deny the possibility that it may instead be +2.

Since there are other biblical statements that literally talked about the actual outcomes turned out to be different from what god thought they would be, and that god regretted his past actions in view of the latest situations, there is nothing wrong with partially open-future theists to let such literal texts to help them to decide whether the professor's personal favourite number x is +2 and not -2.

Jason said...

All these while our discussion is base on a temporary assumption that the various documents in the bible must have a unified non-contradictory view of god. In actual fact, this need not be. Different authors can have different and even contradictory view of god.

That’s your assumption. I prefer the other. Otherwise, all that we can read cannot be trusted anymore.

If an author presented one aspect of God in a book, and the other presented another aspect; yes. But to say the authors have a contradictory view of god (e.g. one say god is not creator, and the other say god is creator); no.

All authors of the biblical texts are fallible and imperfect.

Yes they are. The words are not. (2 tim 3:16; 2 peter 1:21)

They can have fallible and mistaken perception of the character and nature of god.

Not really. More like mistaken notion of what God wanted. For such cases, God corrected them. E.g. peter’s narrow mindset of salvation only for Jews.

Jason said...

Q1. Is fulfilled prophecies are your only evidence or best evidence that is clear enough to show that god knows all future events including undecided events such as what people eat next year in October?

There are many and I don’t have the time to research this to the dot. Many scholars have written about open-theism (for and against). You can refer to them to answer your question on this.

Q2. Why a fulfilled prophecies necessarily mean that it is due to god having a crystal-ball view of the future and therefore knows even all undecided events of the future? Why is there no equal degree of possibility for it to mean that they are fulfilled due to god's active intervention to ensure that those events take place?

Here’s my answer to your question, “Why is there no equal degree for it to mean that God have a “crystal-ball” view of the future and all undecided events of the future?” I think I have said God can actively ensure things take place. But you seem to say fulfilled prophecies only take place because God ensures it, and not because He already knows.

You said that "God’s omniscience-his comprehensive knowledge of all that was, is, and ever shall be-is a corollary of his eternity."

Q3: why must god's knowledge of all undecided future events be a corollary of his eternity? Is that merely an assumption? Or do you have any evidence for it?


This is a quote from Daniel Akin’s book “A Theology for the Church”. You can write to him to ask him about this. Along with this quote are a number of references on open-theism (for & against) in the footnotes. Open-theism is pretty new and those who believe it has the greater burden of proof (because you’re battling with many respected theologians who are not for it – and the debate goes on without a clear winner – pretty much like Calvinism and Arminianism, although they may be a greater slant toward one of it)

There is no diminish of god's greatness when god cannot change a past event (e.g. undo the 2nd World War) just as there is no diminish of god's greatness when he cannot know the non-existent undecided events.

There is no diminish of free will when God knows all things of the future. And there is no diminish of our intellect and logical thinking when “God knowing all things in the future” and “our free will to decide things” can co-exist together at the same time, however difficult or impossible for us to understand how that can be.

Jason said...

Since there are other biblical statements that literally talked about the actual outcomes turned out to be different from what god thought they would be

A lot of scholarly materials have talked about this and it is not conclusive. For example, when God called out to Adam in Gen 3:9, do you really think God didn’t know where Adam was hiding? It’s overly simplistic to say Jer 3:6-7 & Isa 5:3-4 must be taken literally to prove that God didn’t know. Anyway, I am not about to discuss this. The scholars have done their work and we can refer to the various articles for and against this view.

“and that god regretted his past actions in view of the latest situations”

To say this to support your case of a god who does not know everything is to say that this god is not perfect –i.e. he made mistakes and hence he regretted. I believe in a God who is perfect, I don’t know about you.

wrap up: If you are satisfied with believing in a god who only know partially future events, that’s good for you. For me, I prefer a God who can tell me ahead with confidence what will happen or what should I do when I asked for directions and wisdom. A god who from time to time tells me “well, I don’t know cos I can’t see what’s ahead next” isn’t the God that I worship and believed in.

There isn’t really going to be any outcome to this whole discussion (many scholars attempted and failed, how much more we). So thank you for this whole thing. I won’t be participating in this discussion anymore. God bless.