So, far in 2019, we have been moving up the theological pyramid.
Level One... God is Love. The starting point of my theology is 1 John 4:16.
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Level Two... God is Three.
God is One and Two and Three. We think like Scripture. Sometimes the Scriptures talk of one God, at other times there are two and occasionally three.
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Level Three... God is Holy.
demonstrated holiness flows downhill.
Sins are forgiven. Impurity is
cleaned. Evil is eradicated. God’s holiness changes us!
Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"
The holy, holy, holy LORD changes the earth with His glory!
This morning, as we move to Level Four, I am going to share with you a concept, I have come to believe over the last few years. It was not easy for me to change my thinking on this. So, I don’t expect you to change easily. Let me give you permission to disagree with me. You don’t need my permission. But, let me give it do you anyway. But, on the other hand, let me challenge you to seriously consider... Level Four of our pyramid. God is Open.
Level Four... God is Open.
Let’s explore God is Open.
The concept I have come to believe; the question I want you to consider is... Does God know the future? The “Open” of God is Open is the future is open to change and not predestined. I have always assumed that because God knows everything, God, obviously, knows the future. Let me invite you to stay open as I argue that he may not.
Disclaimer... God is Almighty
Let me say, up front, at the beginning, without equivocation, God is All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Infinite, Above All, The Mighty One. The concept that God is Open in no way diminishes the Almighty nature of God. I certainly join the Psalmist in praising God’s power...
Psalm 147:4-5 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
And I join Paul in his doxology...
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
God’s knowledge is infinite! God is totally inscrutable!
I believe God also has free-will. The Almighty could choose to not know the future, if he wished. God is not forced to do anything. God could pick and choose His knowledge of the future. Choosing or not choosing part of the future He chooses to know.
The future does not exist, yet. Perhaps, there is nothing to know. Can God know what is not? I certainly, don’t understand time. I have taught that God is outside time. But that does not really mean anything. Time is just our construct. God is infinite. He has existed forever and will live forever... but He has not lived in the future yet. Perhaps, the future is unknowable.
I believe that either God has chosen not to know the future, or the future is nothing knowable.
But, let me say again... I believe what God told Moses... "I AM WHO I AM." YHWH is the always I AM. He will always be the right now! YHWH is!
Let me explain why I have come to entertain/adopt... God is Open.
1) God Relents.
After the Golden Calf Incident... Moses pleads with God not to destroy the people
Exodus 32:9-14 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you." But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'" And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Either YHWH is being disingenuous with Moses or Moses changed YHWH’s mind. If YHWH knew what he was going to do in the future, how could Moses change His mind?
This is Jonah’s objection...
Jonah 3:4-4:3 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them... 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
God is a loving God who relents from disaster! God cannot be said to relent if He knew he would relent in the future. God relents... the future is Open.
2) God Regrets.
In the days of Noah...
Genesis 6:5-6 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Samuel is upset with the LORD for changing his mind about King Saul.
1 Samuel 15:10-11 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: "I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments." And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.
God cannot regret, if he knows the future.
3) God Answers Prayer.
2 Kings 20:1-6 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.'" Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, "Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake."
Either God was testing Hezekiah in some insincere way, or Hezekiah’s prayer changed God’s mind. God cannot change His mind if the future is known.
In the NT letter from James we learn the power of prayer.
James 5:14-18 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
The prayer of petition changes the future. We believe this. We pray. If the future is predestined by God in his foreknowledge, there is no reason to pray. “Well God knows that I was going to pray so he answered the prayer knowing I was going to ask it.” There seems to be a time-warp continuum paradox, here.
It is simpler, cleaner... for prayer to be real!
4) We Have Freewill.
We live in a world with real possibilities. God cannot lie. God does not manipulate. God explains what He expects and gives us a choice. We are given freewill to obey or reject his commands.
Jeremiah 18:8 “If that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.”
I believe God created humans with freewill. I believe God empowers us to have a “say” in what comes to pass. What people decide to do genuinely changes the future.
Because God is love, he does not violate our freedom. We are free to love Him or not. This choice to love or not, is real. God does not invade us to make us obey. God does not mess with our brains to make us love him. God has not predestined us to obey or not obey. The choice to love is real.
2 Peter 3:8-9 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
I believe God has chosen not to know our choices ahead of time. If God knows our choices before we make them... that messes everything up. If our choices are already “said and done”; if everything is already locked in concrete; then God is not being open with us. God is not honest with us, if he knows what we are going to do before we do it. It would be false to appear to give us a choice when the reality is not.
God does not violate our future. It only makes sense, to me, that God has chosen not to know our choices beforehand.
God is all-powerful. God limits his power to give us real choices.
For these and a dozen other reasons... I believe God has limited himself in His knowledge of the future.
To be fair, let’s explore some objections.
Objection One... “What about prophecy? Are you denying there is prophecy?”
No, God is all-powerful. He knows He will act in the future to make something happen. Therefore, YHWH can commit to acting in the future. God knew he was going to send His Son to restore the world. There was no power that could stop Him from sending His Son. Therefore, He could predict the future. Prophecy is real.
Isaiah 46:8-11 "Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
God will accomplish His purposes. God will restore creation. God will have a people who love Him. He can do this without violating the future.
Objection Two... “What about verses which speak of knowing the future?”
This is where the real rub lives...
Psalm 139 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether... Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Verses such as this, and there are several in the Bible, state that God knows the words before they are spoken. God knows the book of days. Perhaps, the future. These are the verses that held me back from quickly adopting Open Theology. All I can say about these verses is they are poetic. The poetry of the Psalms often uses metaphor and overstatement to make a point. The point of Psalm 139 is the power of God. So powerful he could, if he chose, know everything about David. God is Powerful. That is the truth. I suspect the details here are hyperbole.
As I said, verses, such as these, give pause.
Allow me to speculate. All God wants is to be the God of a people who love Him. God created humans to find out if we will love him. To know the outcome before the experiment begins leaves no reason to conduct the experiment. God has given us freedom to choose to love him or not. He does not violate our future by knowing our choice beforehand. We have a real choice to make.
Ponder God is Open. I am open to your questions. I am open to your disagreements. It is a difficult concept. God is mysterious. We cannot know all of God. God is Other.
But, know this... God loves you. He wants your love; freely given!
February 10, 2019
Los Alamos Church of Christ