Sunday, October 29, 2006
Today, we return to part two of our study of one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith, namely, the fact that Jesus is “Our Great God and Savior”. If you remember reading
(1) A study of the Divine attributes of the Triune God will go far toward delivering us from error on many doctrinal points. For example, opposition to the doctrine of Christ’s deity is directly related to a denial of the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. This is because a denial of Jesus as the second person of the Triune God, leads to a view of Jesus that is less than sovereign, less than holy, and more akin to a limp-wristed, tanned-Tarzan with blue eyes and blonde-hair from
(2) The study of God as He reveals Himself in His own Word will give us the true view of God. The god of the masses is *not* the God of the Bible. The god of the imagination is not the God of the Bible. The God of religious tradition is not necessarily the God of the Bible. God is not simply what man wants Him to be - He is who He is regardless of what we think Him to be. As He said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Ex. 3:14) The deep study of the nature and attributes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as revealed to us in His word gives us the true view of God by providing an objective check against the false gods that have a tendency to develop and then run wild in the imagination of the sinful man’s mind. Any other god other than the Sovereign God of the Bible is a mere idol crafted in the mind. Such an idol cannot save but will surely damn many to a fiery hell. Sadly, the warm, “fluffy” concept of “god” as contained in the minds of many within evangelicalism is *not* the God of the Bible. Very few today have a high and lofty view of the Triune God as the Holy Sovereign of the universe who controls all things and ordains whatsoever comes to pass in accordance with counsel of His will. The common exchange of a powerful, Sovereign Ruler of the Universe for a wimpy, low view of God has historically led to many doctrinal aberrations ranging from Socinianism to the modern-day Arians known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also, many modern pseudo-Christian preachers and teachers are directly responsible for the “warm, fluffy god” heresy because they are mere hirelings, who could care less about the sheep because they are more interested in filthy lucre (Ezek. 34:10;
3) A contemplation of God in His personal attributes will promote humility and reverence. Job’s response to the Sovereign of heaven in
**The reason why understanding God’s attributes promotes humility and reverence is because the better view we have of God, the better view we have of ourselves. When we are exposed by the light of His holiness, we can clearly see our vileness and our need for absolute and complete dependence on Him! As Christ said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” And regarding our utter dependency on Christ as God, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)
4) Being occupied with accurate thoughts of God as He’s revealed in the Scriptures increases our faith. The faith you exercise toward God is no better than the object in which it’s placed. Faith must be based upon a true revelation of God and we have this revelation in the Bible or it’s a misplaced faith that cannot save. I cannot have much faith in a god that is weak and powerless to ordain my every heartbeat. I cannot have much faith in a god that tries and fails because his will is being thwarted by the will of men. However, if we know the truth of passages like Dan. 4:34-35; Psalm 115:3; Eph. 3:20; Jer. 32:27, we know that God reigns over everything, including the evil present in our lives, and such teaching brings tremendous joy to the saint in the midst of tribulation!
5) An idol can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped. Again, we will now turn to our main teaching text today,
I. The Great God Jesus Before
II. The Great God Jesus is God With Us (Isa. 7:14 cf. Matt. 1:23)
III. The Great God Jesus is the Mighty God of Isaiah (Isa. 9:6).
Before we proceed further into the message, we need to review a definition that tells us who God is:
Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
With that definition in mind, let’s look at point # 1.
I. The Great God Jesus Before
A. Jesus is the Eternal Creator. In Psalm 102:25-27 we read about our Creator,
Psalm 102:25-27 "Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. 27 "But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.
· According to verse 1 of Psalm 102, this entire psalm is a praise addressed to Yahweh. We know this by the all caps translation of Yahweh as LORD (A Prayer of the Afflicted when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You.).
· The Psalmist speaks in verses 25-27 of the unchanging and eternal nature of Yahweh. He does this by contrasting the changing creation with the unchangeable Creator (26 "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. 27 "But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.).
· One of the greatest evidences of God’s unique and unchanging nature is His position as the one true God and that He is the Creator. The Scripture says that Yahweh created the earth, and that the heavens are described as the “work” of His hands (Psalm 19:1).
· The universe that He created is changing and time-bound but He is unchanging and eternal. As Moses said about Yahweh, “from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2) And this passage is important because it is speaking of characteristics that are unique to the one true God! This is so important in light of what our next text states.
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews has no problem applying these verses from Psalm 102:25-27 to Jesus Christ Himself! We read in
- We see in verses 8-12 that an entire series of OT passages are used to show the superiority of Christ.
- Verse 8 begins with words of God the Father regarding the Son. Verse 10 continues with the same idea but notice that the same words that were used in Psalm 102:25-27 to refer to the Eternal God, Yahweh are used in
Hebrews 1:10to refer to the Son! In other words, in verse 10, Jesus is viewed by God the Father as the same LORD (Yahweh) in Psalm 102, the LORD who made the universe and has an unchanging nature!
- The fact that Hebrews applies this passage to Jesus tells us what the writer of Hebrews himself thought about the nature of Jesus. The writer of Hebrews knew that Jesus wasn’t a mere creature but was the eternal Yahweh of the Old Testament!
- We know that he writer of Hebrews knew this because you can’t take a passage that can only be talking about God and then apply it to a mere creature, no matter how highly exalted that creature may be! Therefore, Jesus has to be Yahweh God!
Objection: Some may object by saying that just because this passage is used by God the Father in reference to the Son it doesn’t mean that Jesus is identical with Yahweh God. They’ll note that
Answer: However, does this mean that Jesus is King Solomon? No, the only meaningful connection between King Solomon and Jesus has to do with one shared characteristic: kingship. In the same way if I referred to someone as having the love of God in their heart does that mean they are God? More importantly, does that identify who they are? Of course not. But, if I said that someone is eternal, unchanging, and the Creator of everything, then that would tell me what their identity is, namely, that they are God Almighty, and that is exactly what the author of Hebrews is saying in verses 10-12!
B. The OT Prophet Isaiah Saw Jesus (John 12:37-41 cf.
In the gospel of John, at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, we see a group of Greeks seeking out the Lord Jesus. The significance of this passage usually goes right past us when we read it because we are looking more at the encounter than a little comment John sticks on to the end of his citation from Isaiah:
Now usually, the difficulty and struggle that we have with the doctrine of divine hardening in verses 39-40 causes us to skip right by what John says in verse 41. So, what does the apostle John mean when he says that the prophet Isaiah “said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him”? The 64 million dollar question: Who is the “Him” referred to in
To answer that question, we have to go back to the book of Isaiah. In
In this majestic vision, Isaiah the prophet sees Yahweh God (the LORD vv. 3, 5) sitting on his throne, surrounded by angels giving due honor and worship to the King of the universe. Then Isaiah is overcome by his vision of the LORD in light of his dreadfully sinful condition (v. 5). The LORD cleanses his sin and commissions him to bring a message of judgment to the Israelites.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am
Back in the gospel of John, we see that John quotes Isaiah to show that the same hard-heartedness that the Jews had in Isaiah’s day is the same that they had in Jesus’ day, only the Jews in Christ day had the miracles of Messiah, yet they still rejected Him! Then John says, “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.” So, John takes his quotes from
II. The Great God Jesus is God With Us (Isa. 7:14 cf. Matt. 1:23).
The prophets of the Old Testament predicted that the coming Christ would be God: Therefore the LORD himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isa. 7:14).
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Matthew correctly interprets
And all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said though the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'- which means "God with us" (Matt. 1:22-23). The Greek text of
· What a profound truth that God became man and dwelt among us! What glorious love God the Father displayed toward His elect when He sent God the Son to redeem them from His own impending wrath!
· What is more wonderful is to know that Jesus Himself is always with us through the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, that great Comforter who was promised to come, and come He did! (John 14:26) What a blessing it was to have God incarnate here with us for a short time only to have God the Holy Spirit abiding with us, controlling our minds through His indwelling power, and causing to willingly love and hunger for God!
This brings us to point # 3
III. The Great God Jesus is the Mighty God of Isaiah (Isa. 9:6).
Two chapters later, Isaiah prophesies concerning the character of the coming Christ:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God [El gibbor] Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. . . .(Isa. 9:6; emphasis added).
As already seen in by looking at
Psalm 24:8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.
**In Isaiah, the Hebrew word El denoted the true Yahweh, or true God as contrasted to false Gods (43:10; 44:10).
But we read in
- So, we see that Jesus is the Mighty God of the Old Testament in
- We see that there is no other God besides Yahweh and no other Savior besides Him and that Savior is God the Son, Jesus Christ (
Isaiah 43:10-11cf. Luke 2:10-11).
- We that the only God that can be correctly referred to as “the first and the last” is Yahweh, and Jesus uses that phrase of Himself to show that He is Yahweh God! (Isa. 44:6 cf. Rev. 1:17; 22:13)
Oh brethren, what a Great and Mighty God Christ Jesus is! He’s the One who divinely knitted you in your mother’s womb, He’s is the One Who traces your steps, and He’s the judge and King of the Universe. Have you bowed the knee to Him as God and placed your faith in His power to save your soul from hell?
The divine persons of the Triune God planned from all eternity that they would redeem a portion of Adam’s fallen race. In His great love with which He loved us, the Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Christ Jesus died a sacrificial death so that you could be set free from the powerful grip of sin (John 8:32). Jesus is a worthy Savior Who is due your reverent praise because He has all the attributes of full deity. Let us live in such a way that reflects His Kingship and Lordship over our lives (Phil. 2:5-11). My friends, the incurable God lover gives full adoration to the Mighty God Christ Jesus and willingly pledges allegiance to Him. Are you doing this?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, transform the minds of your God-lovers here today so that they’ll be brighter lights in this dark world that exists outside the church. Lord, by the power of your Spirit, cause the unbelieving dogs outside the church to see the bright lights of your spiritual kingdom and run toward it desiring to flee from your wrath and judgment. Lord, cause the sinful flesh of Your people to die daily when they pick up their cross to follow after You, our dear, precious, Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth. Amen.
 An improper view of God lead to the development of Socinianism in the 16th-17th centuries, which eventually spawned many other heresies.
 Taken from James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, (Bloomington, MINN: Bethany House, 1998), 26.
 Psalm 24:1; 78:69; 89:11; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 48:13.
 Psalm 45:6-9. Some think that the King of Israel’s throne is called God’s throne because he was God’s appointed earthly ruler. Also, the Davidic king was called the “son” of God at his enthronement because of his special relationship with God (cf. Psalm 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chr. 28:6 cf. 89:27). Thus, we see that in Hebrews 1:8ff, we find perfect fulfillment of this in Jesus Christ.
 This exact parallel with John 12:41 is found of course, in the LXX where “saw” is translated in Isaiah 6:1 from ei=don and the correlative parallel of “His glory” is translated from th/j do,xhj auvtou/ (genitive instead of the accusative found in John 12:41).
 The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. Unlike their Bible, the NWT, the KIT is a "non-tampered with" Greek text. Hence, I would suggest to use when you are dialoguing with them.
 That term "mighty God" (Heb. El gibbor) as in Isaiah 9:6, was a common name for Jehovah God in Old Testament is not considered by the JWs (e.g., Deut. 10:17; Ps. 24:8; Jer. 32:18). In fact, even their own Bible (NWT) Jehovah is called "mighty God" (Isa. 10:21; Jer. 32:18). The term, "mighty" God is an adjective, as with El shaddai that denoted only the true "God" (El). Again, contrary to the plural Elohim, in Isaiah the Hebrew term El (singular) was applied to Yahweh normally in antithesis to false gods (cf. 43:10; 44:10). Furthermore, the Jews were strict monotheists hence they would not have put-up with such an utterly pagan concept as two true Gods: a big God and a little g god, as the JWs teach. The belief of two true Gods is flat out polytheism not monotheism.
 Important note: Yahweh is called El gibbor in
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
This is, of course, nothing more than a ploy to counter the Reformed doctrine of individual election, but this objection is only true if election is exclusively corporate. On the contrary, we are very comfortable affirming that election is both corporate and individual. So, which is it? The Reformed answer is not, contrary to popular thinking, that it is individual and not corporate. Rather, we affirm both. Why?
If you deny individual election in Romans 8:29, 30, then you wind up with the assertion that all those foreknown are predestined, called, justified, and glorified as a class but not as individuals. However, Arminianism denies effectual individual calling. The appeal to corporate election to the exclusion of individuals won't work here. The persons here are a group, that is true, but every individual in the group is included, while others outside the group are excluded. That's the point of the text, that the elect are in possession of a precious and powerful gift that others do not have, by no reason other than God's mercy. What's more, Romans 8 is particularistic and individual. "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."(Romans 8:9). Paul is speaking to and of the elect as a group, because the individuals themselves are elect and have the Spirit of God. God foreknows and predestines individuals, calls individuals, justifies individuals, and glorifies individuals."Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35). Is this only corporate or is it also individual?
What of Ephesians 1:4? If election is corporate here, then you have a classic example of the regressive fallacy. The disputant will ground his claim in an explanation which needs, in turn, to be grounded, e.g. his assertion only moves the question at issue back one step. “Us” is made up of individuals. Corporate election is useless unless all the ones in the group are elected. Corporate election presupposes individual election. “Choose” here means to pick out of a group, not pick an abstract group whose members are filled later. The Arminian objection amounts to saying God choose Christ and anybody that chooses Christ is "in Christ." Okay, then why does one choose Christ? The text says that God predestined us – not Christ, but the individuals – to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.
In both of these examples, the disputant fails to grasp that nations are not described as salvifically called and justified. Nations are not described as adopted and united to Christ. Nations are not described as glorified salvifically. In fact, Paul specifically denies the corporate election of Israel with respect to individual salvation in Romans 9. The consistent Arminian needs to find a text where Paul answers the question about why not all Israel is being saved with something like "because God has chosen to elect Gentiles as a nation." What's more, if universal prevenient grace is evenly distributed, then why does one person not resist it while the other does? Why does one believe and not the other?
The verb (eklego) ordinarily takes a definite object: Christ chose the twelve Apostles (Lk 6:13; Jn 6:70; 13:18; Acts 1:2). The Father chose the Son (Lk 9:35). The church chose Stephen (Acts 6:5). The church chose Silas and Barsabbas (Acts 15:22). There is, then, no presumption that the verb does not take a definite object and/or has a plural, abstract class in view. The common sense notion of choice involves a particular choice, and the word itself is generally construed to mean "to pick out of a group," not "pick a group." Biblical usage merely confirms that common sense notion.
This is not a denial that it can and does take a collective object. However, even when the verb takes a collective object, there is no logical or practical disjunction between a group and its constituent members. A class is composed of individuals. Christ didn't choose the Apostolate as a class, but the individual Apostles, not a null-set to be filled in by anonymous "whosoever wills." Christ said that God gave Him a people (John 6:37), and that no one individual that comes to Him will be turned away (44). He then clearly stated that no one can come unless drawn, and that person will be raised on the last day. These are individuals. The Good Shepherd calls his sheep by name (John 10:3). The Good Shepherd grants eternal life to the sheep (vv10,28). This is not corporate election. The sheep are named as individuals, not just "sheep." The Good Shepherd does not grant eternal life to the reprobate, the goats. Paul was elected as an individual. Peter was elected as an individual. John was elected as an individual. Lydia was elected as an individual. Cornelius was elected as an individual. The Ethiopian Eunuch was elected as an individual. The consistent Arminian must make these all exceptions for a particular purpose. If so, then he has admitted that election is not a corporate concept. You can’t say that salvific election is a corporate concept, and then immediately proceed to make exceptions. We were elected as individuals, and we become that for which we were chosen. Moreover, proof that God elects corporately is not proof that he does not elect individually.
I would ask, is God's love individual or corporate? If the answer is "both" or "individual," then why not say that His election is corporate and not individual? Does the Arminian not take generally the pantos and kosmos passages and apply them to every individual? Is God's love personal or impersonal? God love and calling are extended, according to Arminian theology, to all without exception by way of prevenient grace. Yet, His election, it would seem, is corporate and not individual. That ultimately means God elects initially memberless classes in an impersonal fashion, a plan, not individuals. Apparently, God is not as "omnibenevolent" as we are led to believe. God's act of election was neither impersonal nor mechanistic, but was permeated with personal love for those whom he chose. (Grudem) Is justification corporate? Adoption? Sanctification? Glorification? Regeneration?
Don’t fishermen count the number of fish in their catch? Don't you know your children by name? Don’t shepherds name and number the sheep in their flocks? Don’t tax-collectors add and itemize taxable goods? Examples could be multiplied. A disjunction between corporate and individual election is also out of sorts with the inherent individualism of his Arminian soteriology. How do you combine libertarian freewill with a
consistently corporate model of our spiritual, salvific destiny? Personal autonomy and corporate identity are at Antipodes, and if—for the sake of argument—we were to grant that the NT authors did not draw a conscious inference from corporate to individual election, the class/ member relation still remains for the Arminian as well as the Calvinist, so the Arminian objection still fails.
A Calvinist doesn’t deny the corporate dimension of election. We fully acknowledge that a person can know if he is part of "the elect" (the group/class) by way of God's revealed will (viz. faith, repentance, etc.; that 's part of our doctrine of assurance); but this is not a priniciple that means that God elected a plan or God elected Christ and then any anonymous set of volunteers could opt in or out. Rather, God is saving a people—a people comprising his church, the Beloved, those called by God, but this does not authorize you to drive a wedge between corporate and individual election, playing the former off against the latter. Election has means as well as ends. To be chosen in union with Christ is to be personally appointed to salvation, not apart from Christ, but through Christ, as our personal Redeemer. When Paul goes on to say of the elect that they believed the gospel and received the seal of salvation (Eph. 1:13-14), the effect of election and the field of it terminates on elect individuals. Paul uses the plural (“us”) because he is writing to the church of Ephesus. He is addressing his letter to a congregation, but a congregation is made up of individual members.
It is impossible to have a national election without the election of individual units within the national group, because you must still contend with the units in the group. So, to say that Romans 9, for example, has to do only with national election and not with individual election is an impossibility; that is, it is a contradiction in terms. If we say that it is national election, then we have the election of a number of individual units within the corporate, national body, since not everybody in the nation is "elected" salvifically. So, we’re back at the same question that we started with when we talk about election; why is any one person and not another "elect?" We answer: God's personal love and mercy to the one and not the other. We thank our Arminian friends for revealing that they believe salvation is just a matter of impersonal, retributive justice, not absolute, personal mercy.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
In our first series, we noted that positing the classical Arminian view of exhaustive, yet passive simple foreknowledge logically destroys what the Arminian desires to preserve the most, man’s libertarian free will. We then noted how the open theist rightly concludes that commitment to said teaching from an Arminian doctrinal platform leads to finite godism. In other words, the open theist believes that if the classical Arminian wants to posit that God infallibly knows all future choices and actions, then it follows that those choices and actions are not free (in a libertarian sense), that genuine freedom related to human behavior is destroyed, the authentic providential control of the universe is undermined, that real relationship and intimacy with God is only apparent and illusory, and that in spite of all efforts to preserve libertarian free will, a fatalistically determined view of the Creator/Creation relationship must be adopted.
In part two of this series, we will discuss the effects of a denial of Classical Theism’s Eternal Decree of God as proclaimed in the Bible and summarized in the historic, Protestant Confessions of Faith and how such a denial is successfully accomplished only by systematically denying the truth and clarity provided by the monergistic understanding of divine foreknowledge as taught within the realm of historic Reformed and Baptist confessional theology.
Denial of Classical Theism’s Eternal Decree of God
Since the open theist rejects some of the most important tenets associated with classical Arminian theology (i.e: simple passive foreknowledge) on logical grounds, this will also logically lead to a rejection of classical theism in both its Arminian and Calvinistic forms. Therefore, it will be helpful to look at some basic definitions of theism, and then discuss at what point exactly it is that the open theist makes a contention over and against the classical theist. The non-Calvinist Theissen defines general Christian theism as, “The belief in one personal God, both immanent and transcendent, who exists in three personal distinctions, known respectively as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” 4-point Arminian Norman Geisler defines theism in an even more basic sense, “Theism is the worldview that an infinite, personal God created the universe and miraculously intervenes in it from time to time.” Neither the Arminian nor the open theist would have problems with the aforementioned basic definitions, but the open theist, from the platform of rightfully critiquing the simple passive foreknowledge view of the Arminian, will argue specifically against the teachings within classical theism that have to do with the eternal decree of God, especially when that doctrine is presented from a historical Calvinistic perspective. A Classical Definition of God’s Eternal Decree
A Classical Definition of God’s Eternal Decree
Classical theism teaches that God’s decree covers and affects everything and that He does not change His decree. This is the view of all Calvinists and most Arminians. Regarding God’s eternal decree, the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith states,
God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.
The above quoted sections of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith are statements that some Arminians and all open theists love to hate. Notice in the two paragraphs above that God is presented as the chief, supreme being who is in control of both major and minor events (i.e: “whatsoever comes to pass”). God is represented as the eternal and sovereign King who decrees from all eternity what, when, and how He desires things to come to pass. From these two short paragraphs, God is presented as providentially controlling the events of the entire universe by his own sovereign decree (Eph. 1:11).
Biblical Examples of God’s Eternal Decree
Some brief biblical examples of God’s eternal decree include the fact that Moses’ life changed the entire course of history. It is important here to ponder on the fact that all of the major historical events recorded in the Scriptures, stood or fell on the integrity and stability of an “ark of bulrushes” with a Hebrew baby in it floating on the
If the infant Moses would not have made it to Pharoah’s daughter at the exact time that he did, there would have been no law given at Sinai, if there was no law there could have been no basis for the Old Testament prophets arguing against Israel’s idolatry, lawlessness, and sin, if there were no prophets there could not have been a coming Savior to whom the prophets pointed, and if there was no Savior, there could be no salvation from sin offered to all mankind. All of this caused by the supposed random floating of a Hebrew infant in a basket along the Nile River approximately 3,500 years ago!
New Testament examples of God sovereign control and providence over all events includes the sinful actions of people that God used to bring about the greater good that was found in the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Open Theism’s Two Most Popular Proponents Denying God’s Eternal Decree and Exhaustive Foreknowledge through Critiquing the Arminian View of Simple Passive Foreknowledge
The following section will focus on the statements of two of open theism’s most popular proponents, Clark Pinnock and John Sanders, to demonstrate that open theists deny and sometimes even abhor classical theism because of its strong teaching regarding God’s eternal decree. Again, we will also make note of the fact that open theists have rightly found the philosophical “chink” in the armor of the Arminian synergistic view by demonstrating the inconsistency of having a God that decrees all things yet has mere simple passive foreknowledge of future free events. Because they pick up on the inconsistency of the Arminian view of God’s foreknowledge in relationship to God’s eternal and fixed decree, the open theist believes that the future is not determined and fixed in any meaningful way. Pinnock has written, “It is unsound to think of exhaustive foreknowledge, implying that every detail of the future is already decided" Thus, Pinnock would disagree with the Scripture and classical theism’s teaching that within the sinful actions of men, God has an ultimate purpose for the evil intentions of their hearts.
Pinnock also disagrees with classical theists in their teaching that God is in control of all things that come to pass, both good and evil. He states, "Though God can bring good out of evil, it does not make evil itself good and does not even ensure that God will succeed in every case to bring good out of it." Also, Pinnock contradicts classical theism by positing that God cannot be in complete control of the world. He states, "This means that God is not now in complete control of the world . . . . things happen which God has not willed . . . . God's plans at this point in history are not always fulfilled" and, "Not everything that happens in the world happens for some reason, . . . . things that should not have happened, things that God did not want to happen. They occur because God goes in for real relationships and real partnerships." Pinnock also destroys the classical theistic concept of an eternal decree of God by making the following statement while supporting another proponent of open theism, "As Boyd puts it: 'Only if God is the God of what might be and not only the God of what will be can we trust him to steer us...'"
John Sanders, another popular proponent of open theism believes that God has no eternal plans to rule and govern the world. In his book The God Who Risks, Sanders clearly states his views concerning the classical theistic understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence by stating, “God has sovereignly decided not to control everything that happens. Rather God is sensitive to us and has decided to be responsive to us. In some things, God has decided to be conditioned by us. Divine conditionality is the watershed issue between the risk and the no-risk views of providence . . . There is no eternal blueprint by which all things happen exactly as God desires.”
Notice that Sanders ties in God’s not sovereignly controlling everything to His ability to develop genuine relationships with believers by allowing us to “condition” Him. It is important to point out here that Sanders considers “Divine conditionality” as the “watershed issue” to determine whether believers can have true relationships (“risk” model of God) versus what he would see as an illusory relationship with God (“no-risk” model of God). This is indeed important to reiterate that open theists believe that if God cannot be conditioned by the creature (i.e: He is immutable), then all supposed relationships and intimacy that a person can develop with God are merely illusory and not actual.
The Helpless God of Open Theism
It is evident at this point that the overreaction of the open theist against the Arminian doctrine of simple passive foreknowledge not only reveals the open theist heretic for what he is, but most importantly, these heretics have served up a fine plate of doctrinal pottage for the Arminan who wants to desperately hold on to Classical theism’s view of God’s eternal decree. As we’ve already seen, open theists consider the changeableness of God as a major factor in developing a relationship with Him and helping Him fulfill His general plan for history. Sanders states, “The portrait of God developed here is one according to which God sovereignly wills to have human persons become collaborators with him in achieving the divine project of mutual relations of love. Thus, Sanders argues for a “divine project” whereby God needs “collaborators” vs. an unchangeable eternal decree. Pinnock makes the same argument when he states, "According to the open view, God freely decided to be, in some respects, affected and conditioned by creatures..." "The world is dependent on God but God has also, voluntarily, made himself dependent on it . . . . God is also affected by the world." Sanders also goes on to show his disdain for the traditional view of an eternal decree by stating,
Either God does take risks or does not take risks in providentially creating and governing the world. Either God is in some respect conditioned by the creatures he created or he is not conditioned them. If God is completely unconditioned by anything external to himself, then God does not take any risks. According to the no-risk understanding, no event ever happens without God’s specifically selecting it to happen. Nothing is too insignificant for God’s meticulous and exhaustive control. Each and every death, civil war, famine, wedding, peaceful settlement or birth happens because God specifically intends it to happen. Thus God never takes any risks and nothing ever turns out differently from the way God desires. The divine will is never thwarted in any respect.
God does not have a specific divine purpose for each and every occurrence of evil. . . . When a two month old child contracts a painful, incurable bone cancer that means suffering and death, it is pointless evil. The Holocaust is pointless evil. The rape and dismemberment of a young girl is pointless evil. The accident that caused the death of my brother was a tragedy. God does not have a specific purpose in mind for these occurrences.
In a magazine debate, Sanders scorns the classical theistic view by setting up an emotional argument against Calvinist Christopher A. Hall’s presentation of God’s eternal decree. He states the following,
Since you believe that nothing happens except what God specifically ordains to occur, you logically conclude that God wants each and every rape, act of incest, and other atrocities to occur. So God wants little girls abused? And you think our view diminishes God’s glory! John Wesley was correct to describe classical theism’s understanding of God’s love as a ‘love that makes the blood run cold.’
Sanders posits a God who is out of control and seeks the help of His creatures to help Him fulfill His “divine project” which can go wrong. To summarize Sanders’ view, the following quote would be appropriate, “God resourcefully tries out different paths in his efforts to bring his project toward a successful completion. God’s activity does not unfold according to some heavenly blueprint whereby all goes according to plan. God is involved in a historical project, not an eternal plan.” Therefore, the two most popular open theist heretics within evangelicalism today, Clark Pinnock and John Sanders clearly and stridently set forth their arguments against the traditional synergistic, Arminian understanding of Classical Theism by exposing the logical contradiction between the Arminian view of an exhaustive decree juxtaposed over against their belief in God’s simple passive foreknowledge of future free events.
In conclusion, we see clearly that the false teaching of God’s simple passive foreknowledge in the camp of our Arminian brethren has given the open theist incentive for blaspheming God and his word with an objection aimed specifically at the Biblical concept of God’s eternal decree. May we all pause and recognize that this as an example of the doctrinal casualties that result when “strange fire” is offered before the Lord in the form of philosophical notions rather than the pure and pristine truths of the consistency of God’s eternal decree as depicted throughout the pages of Holy Writ.
 It is important to note that Calvinists do not hold to simple passive foreknowledge but the open theist’s rejection of any concept of foreknowledge will logically lead to a rejection of the Reformed view of foreknowledge.
 Henry C. Theissen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999), 21.
 Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 722.
 Open theists may take measures to show that “transcendence” and “immmanence” in God supports their own theology. For a refutation, cf. Norman Geisler, The Battle For God (
 For an excellent overall study of the reasons for the increasing growth of openness theology and the subsequent denial of classical theism within evangelicalism, cf. Michael Horton, “God in Our Image.
Why Some Evangelicals are Challenging the Traditional View of God,” Modern Reformation:, September/October 1999, Vol.
 Basic illustration adapted from Systematic Theology BI 552 classroom notes held during May 2003 at
 John M. Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (
 Pinnock, 8. [see part I for original book title]
 Pinnock, 176 [italics author’s for emphasis].
 Pinnock, 36 [emphasis author’s].
 Pinnock, 47 [emphasis author’s].
 Pinnock, 103 [emphasis author’s].
 John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of
 Sanders, 12 [emphasis author’s].
 Pinnock, 5 [emphasis author’s].
 Pinnock, 31 [emphasis author’s].
 Sanders, 10.
 Sanders, 262 [emphasis author’s].
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Section XVI of the 1646 London Baptist Confession of Faith states,
Note: That Jesus Christ is God is wonderfully and clearly expressed in the Scriptures. He is called the mighty God. lsa.9:6. That Word was God,
Brethren we have one of the most important doctrines sandwiched between verses 12-14, namely the fact that Jesus is “Our Great God and Savior”. Jesus said to the Pharisees, those religious hypocrites of first century
1) As already seen, the study of the Divine attributes of the Triune God will go far toward delivering us from error on many doctrinal points. For example, opposition to the doctrine of Christ’s deity is directly related to a denial of the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. This is because a denial of Jesus as the second person of the Triune God, leads to a view of Jesus that is less than sovereign, less than holy, and more akin to a limp-wristed, tanned-Tarzan with blue eyes and blonde-hair from
2) The study of God as He reveals Himself in His own Word will give us the true view of God. The god of the masses is *not* the God of the Bible. The god of the imagination is not the God of the Bible. God is not simply what man wants Him to be - He is who He is regardless of what we think Him to be. As He said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Ex. 3:14) The deep study of the nature and attributes of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as revealed to us in His word gives us the true view of God by providing an objective check against the false gods that have a tendency to develop and then run wild in the imagination of the sinful man’s mind. John Calvin said that man’s mind is an idol-factory. Any other god other than the Sovereign God of the Bible is a mere idol crafted in the mind. Such an idol cannot save but will surely damn many to a fiery hell. Sadly, the warm, “fluffy” concept of “god” as contained in the minds of many within evangelicalism is *not* the God of the Bible. Very few today have a high and lofty view of the Triune God as the Holy Sovereign of the universe who controls all things and ordains whatsoever comes to pass in accordance with counsel of His will. The common exchange of a powerful, Sovereign Ruler of the Universe for a wimpy, low view of God has historically led to the errors associated with the Socinian heretics of the 16th-17th centuries, men who paved the way for the modern Unitarian Universalist movement, which is really nothing more than liturgical atheism. Also, many modern pseudo-Christian preachers and teachers are directly responsible for the “warm, fluffy god” heresy because they are mere hirelings, who could care less about the sheep because they are more interested in filthy lucre (Ezek. 34:10;
3) A contemplation of God in His personal attributes will promote humility and reverence. Look at Job’s response to a vision of the Sovereign God in
Isaiah also said the same thing when He realized who he was in light of who God is,
So, the better view we have of God, the better we will know ourselves and see our true dependency on Him. In light of His holiness, we can clearly see our vileness.
4) To be occupied with thoughts about God as He is accurately revealed in the Scriptures will increase our faith. Faith must be based upon a true revelation of God and we have this revelation in the Bible. I cannot have much faith in God if I believe He is being defeated on most battle fields (i.e., Open theism). I cannot have much faith in God if I believe He is trying and failing; if I believe His will is being thwarted by the will of men; if I believe He is doing the best He can to accomplish as much good as He can, and to save as many as He can. But if we know the truth of passages like Dan. 4:34-35; Psalm 115:3; Eph. 3:20; Jer. 32:27, we know that God reigns over all things, even the evil in our lives, and such teaching brings inexplicable joy to a weary soul.
5) An idol can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped. This brings me to my sermon text today,
1. Jesus is the Great God.
2. Jesus is the Divine Savior.
I. Jesus is the GREAT God.
This is one of the plainest declarations in all of Scripture of the deity of Christ (cf.
“our GREAT God . . .”
The OT frequently refers to God the Father many times as “great.” However, in the NT that description is used only of God the Son (see, e.g., Matt. 5:35;
This brings us to point # 2,
II. Jesus is the DIVINE Savior.
As already mentioned, Jesus proclaims Himself to be great “I AM” of
7. True Deity
8. Worthy to receive worship
The wise men said after the birth of King Jesus, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
As Dr. Bob Morey says in his excellent book on the Trinity, “No mere creature could be described as such without committing blasphemy.” Our text goes on to describe the great divine Christ Jesus as the Savior of our sins. “Our great God and SAVIOR Christ Jesus,” The 1646 LBCF also makes another beautiful statement in regards to why Jesus has to be divine if He’s to be our Savior.
XVI. THAT [Jesus] might be a prophet every way complete, it was necessary He should be God, and also that He should be man: For unless He had been God, He could never have perfectly understood the will of God; and unless He had been man, He could not suitably have unfolded it in His own person to men.
· If Christ would’ve been a mere creature, like any other man, then he couldn’t have perfectly kept the Mosaic Law so as to be the perfect and final sacrificial Lamb, a lamb without blemish, spot or wrinkle.
- The only way for the Father’s wrath against your sins to be satisfied is through the death of the divine Son of God. Such a satisfaction of wrath could only be properly understood by God the Son and such a sacrifice wouldn’t be acceptable unless it was the very blood of God as
Acts 20:28says (Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.).
The divine persons of the Triune God planned from all eternity that they would redeem a portion of Adam’s fallen race (Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will). In His great love with which He loved us, the Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords died a sacrificial death so that your sorry soul could be set free (John 8:32). Jesus is a worthy Savior Who is due your reverent praise because He has all the attributes of full deity. Instead of living like pagan dogs, let us always remember to worship Christ as God and live in such a way that reflects His Kingship and Lordship over our lives (Phil. 2:5-11). Brothers and sisters, the cry of the incurable God lover who is faced with the decision of whether to bow down to the idol or pledge allegiance to the Sovereign Christ of heaven will naturally echo Peter’s rhetorical question and grand proclamation found in
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, continually transform the minds of your people to become brighter, shining lights in the valleys of darkness that exist outside the church. Let the sinful, unbelieving dogs outside the church see the bright lights of the spiritual kingdom that is set on a hill and desire to eat the crumbs that fall from your table. Lord, cause the sinful flesh of Your people to die daily when they pick up their cross to follow after You, our dear, precious, Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth. Amen.
 At Titus 2:13, the NET Bible states in regard to the Granville-Sharp rule: “The terms "God and Savior" both refer to the same person, Jesus Christ. This is one of the clearest statements in the NT concerning the deity of Christ. The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-kai,-noun (where kai, [kai] = "and"), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as "the friend and brother," "the God and Father," etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp's point. The only issue is whether terms such as "God" and "Savior" could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both "God" (qeo,j, theos) and "savior" (swth,r, soÒteÒr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp's rule. Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp's rule, all attempts have been futile. Sharp's rule stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. For more information on Sharp's rule see ExSyn 270–78, esp. 276. See also 2 Pet 1:1 and Jude 4.”
 This is a fulfillment of Deut. 18:15.
 Inclusivism (both private and corporate inclusivism) is the unbiblical view that those who do not specifically hear the gospel of Jesus Christ can be saved apart from that saving message. In direct contrast, the apostle Paul stated plainly, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
 Robert A. Morey, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 1996), 373.