THEODICITY CHRISTOLOGY OPEN THEISM

THEODICITY CHRISTOLOGY OPEN THEISM

1. What is the “Open View” of God

2. How do you respond to this “Open Theology”? Please elaborate on areas you strongly support and felt encouraged, and areas you strongly disagree and felt it is dangerous if any. 

The open view of God is seen as a theological position that accepts God as a changing entity as opposed to complete immutability. This is a tricky question and is one that will undoubtedly create conflicted notions and charges of heresy from whatever opponents your position advocates. I am perfectly comfortable with Open Theology for the most part, as it takes into account the problem of freedom, as freedom is the only power God gives that can be used against Himself. Pinnock states that “he (God) made an environment where not everything would be predictable and where novelties can happen (129).” Scripture demonstrates that God has changed in major areas within His relatability toward mankind. Pinnock’s statement that “on the other hand(God), being a person and not an abstraction, God changes about creatures (86) is a really good point.

Pinnock raises some excellent points to consider concerning the notions that have existed in the traditional Calvinistic models of theology and the idea of the Sovereignty of God. To be truly sovereign, Calvin speculated changeability is inferior to the possibilities of transformation, ergo the inclusion of “it has often been objected that God cannot change because a being that does not change is superior to one that does (87).” This is not an accurate statement and is simply another distillation of Occam’s Razor.

FIVE DISTINCT APPROACHES TO THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

I think Pinnok’s wrangling over the problem of evil is superb as it relates to the change dynamic. The problem of evil’s existence in a universe that had been pronounced good by God initially is one of unique interest to the field of theology.  Evil raises a distinct specter into the discussion of goodness and omnipotence as concepts that are germane to the dialogue of God.  Several distinct approaches have been developed theologically to satisfy the debate of God as being both just and strong, yet allowing evil to exist in the midst of His creation.  Theodicies have ranged from theories that allow God to be the author of evil:  God is accountable to no one, so each act of God, good or evil, becomes good by simple divine decree, to the abject denial of evil as a probable reality.

1) One approach to the problem of evil has been to dismiss evil as a propositional consideration.  This theory accepts the reality of good and evil as substantive realities, yet dismisses any true possibilities for reconciling the existence of evil.  Evil is viewed as a surd.  Within this framework, the only viable solution is a retreat into fideism.  The need to explain evils existence is not embraced as a necessary proposition.  What is evil must be accepted without justification or explanation.

2) A second consideration concerning the problem of evil has been designated as finitism.  This theological construct approaches evil from the perspective of omnipotence.  As a constrictive model, finitism views God as being incapable of affecting the outcome of creation.  Dualistic theologies hold much in common with this perspective.  A sense of uncertainty prevails when the outcome of creation is discussed.  Moral freedom, not divine will, becomes the catalyst of determination concerning creation’s parameters.  Modifications do exist within this theological construct to mitigate a dualistic reference.  This ideological vantage point allows voluntary limitations concerning that which is possible to exist as imposed by God.  This self-imposition creates a framework for freedom, sovereignty, and evil to co-exist substantively.  Most Armenian theologies would concur with this view. 

3) A third theological frame of reference that has been developed to explain the problem of evil deals with the omniscience factor.  This belief system explains the problem of evil by proposing the theory that God simply is incapable of knowing the outcome of activities within creation.  Reasonable prognostications are all that can be expected from God when the future is considered.  Evil was a probable possibility, yet it may or may not have occurred.  God simply took a chance in creation, hoping for the best of all possible outcomes.  As such, action is a conditional variable, forcing a constant reassessment of the endless possibilities, as long as creation exists.  In this view, God is seen as a dynamic agent who is responsive to the endless variables that are possible amongst freely acting moral agencies.

4) A fourth theological understanding concerning the problem of evil attempts to solve the problem by changing the conceptual understanding of the goodness of God.  Extreme Calvinists would gravitate toward this theological premise, as it espouses a separation of the ideological concept of God’s will.  Under this purview, law and mandated activities operate prescriptively, whereas everything that happens as activation occurs declaratively.  Sin, evil, good:  all exist as direct decrees of God.  This view would accept God as the active and deliberate agent for evils existence.  The only distinction between God’s activities and creations are matters of degree, and more importantly, accountability.  God in His absolute ability is accountable to no one.  As such, God can declare His activities as good while conversely declaring equivalent activities among the creation as evil.  This dichotomy is expressed as a restriction of free will and as the inability to challenge God.

5) A final alternative to the problem of evil can be seen in the belief that evil simply does not exist.  Eastern mysticism, cultic variations, and mind over matter philosophies would embrace this concept.  It is a foreign view Scripturally, far removed from the boundaries of Biblical Christianity. 

Millard Erickson’s approach to the problem of evil is interesting[1]  (pp. 436-456).  Viewing God as the victim of evil raises unique possibilities, as does the view of eternity’s impact.  Can good come out of what has been deemed as evil?  Calvary is a resounding affirmation.  Free exercise of will has brought about the consequences of sin and evil’s existence.  The substitutionary atonement of Christ is a telling activity of God’s involvement in answering this dilemma.  Eternity will resolve the problem of evil’s activation.  Humans may not fully understand the complexity of this problem until then.  As such, Erickson may be right in his assumptions, and they align with Pinnock’s view of the impact free will has to God, necessitating God actions that work within the confinement of change.

Change Based On Change

Scripture grants us examples of God interacting with humanity and changing His activities based on humanities choices, whether good or bad. Furthermore, the idea of God in transition addresses the difficulties of communicative capacities when it comes to God and man. There is a terrible problem that sits in the middle of the ability for man and God to communicate. God is the person who sits in the seat of restriction when it comes to attempts to communicate with man. Mankind simply cannot grasp the vastness of who God is. This means that for God to communicate with us, He has to restrict Himself to our limited ability to understand. This is not dissimilar to an owner of a dog who tries to communicate to his animal. Try as we may, we can never seem to get our pooch to understand Trigonometry. Our pet dogs do understand some of our communications in the arena of command and affection.

Passibility and Love

The question of affection leads us into a discussion about God’s conditioned responses to man. When we consider the passibility of God, do we consider whether or not God changes, and does the love of God becomes a front and center proposition? Is the love of God knowable? Is God’s love transmittable? Is the love of God exclusive, or is it generous in its application? Is the love of God conditioned? I think that the position of conditioned love is the fulcrum of the theological quandary concerning the question of impassibility and the inability to change when it comes to our concept of divine attributes, which is what makes Pinnock’s view so compelling. When the statement that “the open view of God emphasizes that He is a loving person (81), is coupled with “love is precarious and makes even God vulnerable (81), you have a unique view of God that emerges.

Unconditional Love or Unconditional Surrender

Let’s set up the counter argument for a moment and talk about unconditional love. The concept of unconditional love creates a restriction on the part of God’s participation in a relationship with humanity. Love without condition creates restricted relational values and diminishes freedom’s potential. The question to ask is, how can love be unconditional when it is based on a decision? God does, however, expect unconditional surrender on our part as a condition for a relationship to begin. The unconditional clause fits us, not Him.

The modern application of unconditional love is what we call a theological novelty. It has no basis biblically, in NT writings, in the early church fathers or early theology. It is a modern affixation, not unlike the pretribulation rapture theory. In the Greek, agape, and phileo are used interchangeably, with agape serving as the least definable term of the love designations. Agape seems to be the choice of the Septuagint writers to carry the idea of ahabah (Hebrew) for love, as agape had no erotic connotations, although ahabah has serious jealous overtones. Agape is also used interchangeably with phileo regularly in the NT, as the two words have common expressions.

The most common application of agape in the NT would undoubtedly be John 3:16 “for God so agape the world He gave His Only Son… Many writers stop there, asserting that this is a stellar example of sacrificial love without expectations. If that is where the thought ended, I suppose you would have a case, but that isn’t the end of the thought, as John goes on to say that “whosoever believes” moves from death to life. This is clearly a condition predicated on choice, which indicates condition (belief). God’s love is extravagant, and His salvation is by grace alone, but there are divine conditions placed on those who live in the world to become a recipient of this great love.

The popular notion of ‘unconditional love’ comes not from the flower children of the 1960’s but a book, written by a conservative, British Christian scholar… CS Lewis. It was called the ‘Four loves’ and sets out the theological concept quite nicely. God loves unconditionally. Participation in his gift is voluntary. He sends no one to hell. They go of their own will. God will grieve over their damnation and destruction.

God DOES expect a response even though it is voluntary. God has added conditions to some relational aspects, ergo the big “if” clauses and the necessitation for reception of salvation’s power and presence. However, if you are a Calvinist, Gnostic tendencies will apply to a misunderstanding of placement. That DOESN’T mean I think Calvinists are Gnostics, as I hold to some elements Calvin (Augustine first) advocated. However, when we apply Greek philosophical concepts to Theology, distortions do happen.

Love as Resolution

A possible resolution can be seen in Father God’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for us is found in His Son Jesus. As we are found in Jesus, we are recipients of all the blessings that are found in Christ. That is a complete identity thing theologically. I am inserting a word study on the various words that are translated as love in the New Testament with a final evaluation of how God related to Jesus in the incarnation, and how God relates to us as children of adoption and how we relate to the Father’s love.

The first word we see in the Bible that deals with the concept of love is Stergein (Storge). Storge is a love that equates to natural affection. It is like the love that is expressed by members of a family, or even in the love of animals for their offspring. This kind of love binds any social unit together.

Father’s Love Defined

From a scriptural perspective, Philein (noun form Philos) is a major revelation of God’s love. This phileō is spontaneous natural affection, exists with more feeling than reason. Phileo occurs some 25 times. It is the love expressed between friends and is seen as the mutual attraction of similar interests and characteristics that we find intoxicating. It can also be the appreciation of the qualities we esteem in another person and can be understood as tender compassion. The Greeks valued friendship very highly, and philein is the most commonly used word for love in the classical writings.

The type of love that engrosses us as students of Scripture is Agapan (noun form agape). Agape become known as the highest form of love which sees something infinitely precious in its object. It is a love of esteem and of prizing for the values ascribed to the beloved. Agapē means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment and rejection. The difference between agapaō and phileō is difficult to sustain in all passages. Agapē is especially appropriate for religious love.

Let me now address how we experience the love of the Father.  We do it through His phileo love, not agape, which is the exact opposite of what most have been taught or teach.  The phileo of the Father for the Son is described in John 5:20, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. In the ministry of Jesus, His words and works apparently flowed out of phileo love.  It was in the relational intimacy of tender compassion that Jesus sensed His Father’s presence and heard His voice, which let Him know what the Father was doing.

Father God expresses this same type of love for us.  John 16:27 says, for the Father, Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.  Our communication and connection with God are supposed to flow out of the same continual experience of our Father’s phileo for us.  Modern definitions of agape focus on a truth about God that is almost untouchable or unknowable from a human standpoint through its elevated concept.  Phileo is important, as it focuses on God’s tender touch, which is missing in most believers lives. The lack of intimate touch from the Father comes from our rejection of God as an intimate person who desires to be in an active and changing relationship with us His creatures.

Choices, Change, and the Eternally Known

It is also important to make a distinction between foreknowledge and predestination when discussing God’s interactions with His creation, as people often make the mistake of blending the two concepts. I read a cool article about the curvature of the universe recently that demonstrated in theory that we should be able to see the past and future based on light traveling in a continuous loop. As God is light, He can see the future without necessarily affecting it. Also, Pharaoh’s condition indicates limitations exist within the freedom of action and choice. Ananias and Sapphira’s story is included precisely to demonstrate that God struck them down through the dictate of His servant Peter. If God weren’t in agreement, the couple wouldn’t have died, and the net result of Godly fear would not have followed.

Acts 5 implies God’s activity in the deaths that are recorded, as Luke uses the phrase tempt or test the Spirit through a conspiracy, which caused the death. This is the same phrase used by Jesus in rebuking satan during the temptation in the wilderness when the injunction was given in the negative of “not tempting the LORD.” Disassociating these phrases is a serious theological mistake, and ignores proper exegesis, in my humble, yet educated opinion. Peter pronounces with the caveat of action connected to tempting. They do go hand in hand. When we ignore the qualifiers in Scripture, we put ourselves in dangerous territory.

A further thought as I sit here doing my morning devotions: I am reading in the Psalms, and there are telling passages contained therein concerning this discussion, at least in part. Concerning the dialog about the hardening of Egypt’s ruler’s heart, the Psalmist records who both hardened the heart and brought destruction on Egypt, and destroyed other Kings. Psalm 135:8-10 states: He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants. He defeated many nations… Let Scripture interpret Scripture.

Freedom: the only power God gives that can be used against Himself

When God is made known through his energies by way of the Christological manifestation, the unknowable becomes known. This disclosure allows God to be acknowledged through a limited constraining element of knowledge. However, even in this cognitive phenomenalism, logic dictates restrictiveness in God’s epistemological understanding from the human vantage point. God is known through the superiority of the One who exists perpetually in Sonship: but He is never known in totality. The kenotic limitations preclude complete action through energies. The union of God and man restricts the knowable nature of God into the essential criterion of causality and disclosure: God is known through that which He reveals Himself ontologically and empirically through.

H.D. McDonald, in Jesus: Human and Divine elucidates this significant understanding of the divine necessitation of human disclosure by way of natural substance. McDonald states: “The figure of Jesus as it is presented to us in the Gospel story and interpreted to us in the rest of the New Testament is that of one who was no unearthly angelic visitant, no demigod in human shape. It was a real man who lived a perfect life amid the human realities of our common way.[2]” Disclosure came through the One who relates to the human experience via the pathway of suffering. But the hardships endured are only a small part of the equation. Hebrews author lent theological language that would develop the untenable theological consideration as Flusser states: “It is unthinkable that an unassuming, local, idealistic (sic) rabbi could later become an object of divine honor.[3]”  Flusser’s difficulties reflect well the dialogue of the discouraged followers of Christ, who were tempted to restrict their understanding of Jesus to that of a simplistic Rabbi who was charismatic and inspiring. If kenotic relegation were the end, net result, faith would be a pointless exercise, worthy of abandonment.

McDonald forces enlightenment and understanding of the transitional nature of Hebrews Christology by highlighting attention and focus upon the titular use of ‘Lord’ (kurios) and ‘Theos’ (God) in Hebrews (1:8, 10).[4] Murray Harris disparages those who attempt to denigrate the importance of these designations in Hebrews. Harris states: “It is scarcely adequate to claim, as V. Taylor does (Essays 85), that ‘the divine name is carried over with the rest of the quotation’ and the writer ‘has no intention of suggesting that Jesus is God’ so that ‘nothing can be built upon this reference.’ Even if the author was not consciously applying a divine title to Christ, one cannot assume that he failed to recognize the theological import of such an incidental application…that the ‘deity of Christ, which is relevant but not necessary to the argument, is only mentioned in passing’ fails to do justice to the significance of this address in the flow of the argument.[5]

These two pillars of understanding, kurios/Theos, and their importance, should not be neglected in considering the message of Hebrews. As Dr. John Draine, Directory, Center for the Study of Christianity and Contemporary Society, University of Stirling, UK states in an article entitled Son of God in the Dictionary of the Latter New Testament and its Developments: “Hebrews represents an important transition from early images of Sonship to later metaphysical beliefs. Jesus as Son of God is a key theme and a basic confession of faith (Heb 4:14).  Sonship can almost be synonymous with the perfection and totality of salvation (Heb 4:14, 5:9, 6:6, 7:3, 28:8-9), rooted in the assumption that Jesus achieved this status through suffering and resurrection (Heb 5; 8, 6:6, 10:29) and with the language of divine begetting (Ps. 2) providing the frame of reference.[6]” 

Sonship supercedes the significance of energies as applied by God in the creative nature of existence. Hebrews author possibly includes philosophical language that frames the Platonic understanding of divine logos that perhaps influenced Augustine and other apologists who endeavored to incorporate philosophical ideas into the language and expression of the Book of Hebrews. Ontologically, Jesus form validates His superiority over the creation that He framed (v. 3), utilizing the Christian experience of language and knowledge.

The transitional nature of Hebrews depiction of Christ as Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father, implies the resumption of Christ’s pre-incarnate essence, existing as He truly is: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, incomparable. Yet, as one who existed in the form/morphe of man as servant, He remains as one who is both knowable and accessible: one who sympathizes. The hypostatic union of Christ, God coupled with humanities essence, appears to co-exist in the Trinitarian concept. God is both independent and dependent upon the self-revelation of the Three who exist as one. This contributes greatly to the equations understanding.

Hebrews author sets the stage for the later appreciation of the churches conceptual perception as to man’s ability to know God. This hypothesis restricts man’s ability to be familiar with God exclusively to the realm of metaphysical considerations. This limitation expresses itself in the epistemological pursuit of God’s energies, not His essence. By this it is meant that God in His character and expression exists in a vortex of unknowable substance. This is witnessed by the impossibility of finite substance comprehending infinite essence. The two negate interaction, as a conciliatory consideration:  finite and infinite exist in diametrically opposite polar extremes.

This characterization means, in essence, that man can never truly know God for all he is:  as He is in perpetuity. But man can know God as He is through the revelation of His energies, or actions. The knowledge of God is thus reduced to the substantive actions of God as He expresses Himself through motion as He actively participates in creations boundaries.  By this it is to be understood that man only knows God in a limited way: revealed through the revelatory inclusions of God interacting with men by way of divine interdiction. The matrix of Son of God and Son of Man becomes essential in the unfolding revelation, as this is the substantive form of material unveiling God has chosen to utilize for this revelation.  Kenotic limitations serve as the divine vehicle whereby infinite devolves into the realm of the finite: unknowable immensity becomes knowable and touchable through essential substance.

Stergein: (Storge) This means a natural affection, like that between members of a family, or even in the love of animals for their offspring. This kind of love binds any social unit together.

Father’s Love Defined

Philein (noun form philos) This phileō, spontaneous natural affection, with more feeling than reason, occurs some 25 times. It is the love between friends, the mutual attraction of similar interests and characteristics. It is the appreciation of the qualities of another person and can be understood as tender compassion. The Greeks valued friendship very highly, and philein  is the most commonly used word for ‘love’ in the classical writings.

Agapan (noun form agape): This means the highest form of love which sees something infinitely precious in its object. It is a love of esteem and of prizing for the values ascribed to the beloved. Agapē means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment and rejection; the difference between agapaō and phileō is difficult to sustain in all passages. Agapē is especially appropriate for religious love

Let me address how we experience the love of the Father.  We do it through His phileo love, not agape.  The phileo of the Father for the Son is described in John 5:20, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  The ministry of Jesus, His words and works apparently flowed out of phileo love.  It was in the relational intimacy of tender compassion that Jesus sensed His Father’s presence and heard His voice, which let Him know what the Father was doing.

Father God expresses this same type of love for us.  John 16:27 says, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.  Our communication and connection with God is supposed to flow out of the same continual experience of our Father’s phileo for us.  Modern definitions of agape focus on a truth about God that is almost untouchable or unknowable from a human standpoint through its elevated concept.  Phileo is important, as it focuses on God’s tender touch, which is missing in most believers lives.

Let me address how we experience the love of the Father.  We do it through His phileo love, not agape.  The phileo of the Father for the Son is described in John 5:20, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.  The ministry of Jesus, His words and works apparently flowed out of  phileo love.  It was in the relational intimacy of tender compassion that Jesus sensed His Father’s presence and heard His voice, which let Him know what the Father was doing.

Father God expresses this same type of love for us.  John 16:27 says, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.  Our communication and connection with God is supposed to flow out of the same continual experience of our Father’s phileo for us.  Modern definitions of agape focuses on a truth about God that is almost untouchable or unknowable from a human standpoint through its elevated concept.  Phileo is important, as it focuses on God’s tender touch, which is missing in most believers lives.

Worship and praise are powerful tools of warfare that drive back darkness.  Praise drives darkness away, as true praise and worship is despised by the enemy.   There is power in our praise when it becomes an instrument in the hands of the Spirit to drive back the works of darkness. Praise is an instrument of warfare and intercession, and it is loathed by the Adversary.  It’s why we are supposed to sing in the Spirit.

GOD’S GOVERNING DEALING OF PROVIDENCE

Christianity at the outset rejects any understanding of theology that espouses dualism as a position.  Equally, correct doctrinal stipulations will do away with any pantheistic statements of faith that endorse any form of monism or multiple deities.  A proper view of creation narrowly defines God as the source initiator for all that is.  A natural segue is created from the doctrine of creation into the doctrine of providence, bridging the two formats of theological discussion.  The former aspect of doctrinal concern deals with the act of being while the latter issue focuses on the action of the creator as He formally intercedes within the affairs of His creation.

Providence, by its nature, draws attention to two primary aspects of God’s dealing with that which exists substantively.  God can identify phase one as the governmental interdiction of the universe.  The second condition of providence is witnessed by God’s maintenance and sustaining actions concerning the universe.  Louis Berkhof, in Systematic Theology, astutely points out that historically, the doctrine of providence shows that: “the church took position against both, the Epicurean notion that the world is governed by chance, and the stoic view that it is ruled by fate.”[7]

As long as theologians have been issuing edicts about The Faith, the doctrine of providence has been at the forefront.  Theologically, the concept of forethought becomes a key concept in the discussion of providence.  The idea that is advanced is one that identifies the concerns of God for His creation both in provision and care.  Providence casts God into the role of beneficent caretaker:  not dispassionate maker.  Providence provides understanding into the maintenance factor.  God is seen as not merely allowing that which is to exist.  Rather, God makes it exist through divine intervention.

Providence has a very practical application to the life of the believer.  As Erickson so eloquently states in Christian Doctrine:  “Providence is in certain ways central to the conduct of the Christian life.  It means that we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives.”[8]  This activity has not always been perceived as being explicit in activation.  It would generally be alleged that most of God’s providential dealings within the creation would come through natural machinations.  It must be emphasized however, that providence advances the notion that “everything that happens in the spiritual and physical universe happens as the result of God’s will.”[9]

Providence as a doctrinal statement of truth deals with the oversight issues of sustenance and governance concerning the divine dealings of God.  In this matrix, providence carries the implied weight that views God as the controller of the natural laws that exist in order to ensure conformity and uniformity concerning the relationship of creation to itself.  God enforces His activity in a personal fashion, arbitrarily moving within His creation.  The overwhelming instances of God’s direct intervention into the affairs of creation would be through the realm of natural order, rendering His control as existing in the essential, unseen activities.

A second and primary aspect of providence transcends the general constrictions into the aspect of the special involvement of God into the direct care of humanity.  Experientially, the believer can be confident that God is capable and willing to intersect into the individual lives of the believer.  This aspect of the care of God can be witnessed in the smallest of details of life.  But more importantly, God’s providential care is demonstrated in the sacrificial offering of Himself, as God the Son ascended Golgotha’s shame for humanities salvation.  Throughout all of God’s interventions, salvation is revealed and God is glorified.

HOW GOD CAN BE DESCRIBED AS UNCHANGING WHEN CHARACTERIZED AS REPENTING, REGRETTING, ETC.

Quandaries are presented as viable statements in Scripture and in the language of theology.  At times that which is postulated creates conflicting patterns of thought as the subject matter is pondered.  This is particularly complex when the ideological conundrums broach ideas that are seemingly impossible from the human vantage point of experiential conformity.  At times, the biblical record appears to offer conflicting paradigms that are irascibly impossible to coalesce into a harmonious ideal.  The immutability factor concerning God and the fluid structure of history and human experience appear to be two such ancillary venues.  James stipulates that “…the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Js 1:17, KJV), is the releaser of abundant and good endowments.  Yet, Genesis projects:  “The Lord was sorry that He had made man” (Gen 6:6, KJV).  Each passage speaks of the same God, with two distinct perspectives relating to the abilities of stability and change, or uncertainty.  Is one wrong to the exclusion of the other, and if so, what does this do to the doctrine of inerrancy?

James Montgomery Boice amply illustrates at least a cursory answer to this dilemma in:  The Sovereign God, when he states, “The fact that God is eternal has two major consequences for us.  “The first (proposition) is that He can be trusted to remain as He reveals Himself to be,” (p. 131).  Boice sets up a counterpoint argument that allows for an interchange between eternality, immutability and the use of human language, which is far from comprehensive in order to due away with the apparent discrepancies.  In this light, God’s character and attributes are viably perceived as existing outside of the sphere of human capacity.  With this in mind, the unique aspects of God are accepted as non-communicable in as pristine fashion in a modified Anselmian syllogism.  Instead of ‘I think of Him, therefore He is,’ it can be construed as ‘He is more than can be comprehended, therefore accept what is unknowable.’  The limitations of linguistic inadequacies are presented as modifiers for him challenging passages of Scripture.  As Boice surmises:  A human word is being used to indicate God’s severe displeasure with human activities” (p. 131-2).  Contrary Scriptural passages are presented as counteracting elements to the anthropic voice.

Although Millard Erickson concurs concerning the anthropic designation (p. 381), this interpretation appears to have serious problems in relationship to the consistency factor of Scripture and inerrant authority configuration.  Does this role of explaining away troubling areas in one school, leave open as a possibility the dismissal of other aspects of troubling doctrine in other formats as well? Over all, the viability of inspiration and authenticity is damaged.  It is true that human languages carry certain intrinsic weaknesses in conveying absolute truth, but this cannot be viewed as an effective means for interpreting problematic passages.  Boise’s foray into the eternal nature of God appears to be a proper resolution to this interpretive difficulty, particularly as Millard Erickson in Christian Theology articulates it.  Millard concurs that the eternal aspect of God as He is free and unrestrained by the restrictions of time offers an effective solution to the dilemma of immutability and change.  The Scriptural designations of changelessness and variables must coalesce somehow.

The solution, according to Erickson, is found in the plan of God as expressed progressively.  God’s changes are more accurately described as greater modes of revelation of God’s intentions through a “working out of God’s plan… (Even though it) may seem to be changes of mind…although it represented a rather sharp break with what had preceded the action historically.  Another salient point is that:  Some apparent changes of mind are changes of orientation resulting from humans move(ing) into a different relationship with God” (p. 305).  Thus the agent of change isn’t God, its man.

 DOES PRAYER EVER CHANGE THINGS

A germane focal issue that exists within this discussion is the overarching plan of God.  Conceptually, this is the vantage point of theology that postulates the theory that nothing that exists, or happens, occurs outside of the purview of God’s direction.  The additional view of known guidance is embraced as well.  Most theologies that acknowledge the providential activities of God’s benevolent guidance equally accept the ideological proposal of a divine plan that is unalterable.  Within this frame of thought, the expressed understanding of God’s explicit knowledge stands as an accepted given.  Pre-knowledge, knowledge and knowledge of that which is yet to be, resides within this paradigm.  That which is known leads to the issue of governance when creation is witnessed. 

A natural difficulty arises out of these discussions, however.  When the providential guidance of God is discussed, the natural question as to human will and direction must rise, if honest appraisals of biblical data are to be arrived at.  In observing the interaction of God’s plan and man’s freedom as a free moral agent, one must ask:  Just how free is mankind?  Does the doctrine of providence preclude freedom of choice, and if this is the true posit, does the function of prayer have any meritorious value attached to its enactment?

Erickson attempts to resolve these issues of conflict in Christian Theology (p. 430-31)[10], as he discusses the problem of providence and prayer.  Approaching the dialogue from the Calvinistic perspective, Erickson accepts the doctrine of Providence as a pivotal point of truth.  Christian Theology espouses a firm belief in the plan of God as existing within the confluent understanding of definite outcome and unalterable reality. 

This view eliminates any constructive acceptance of human change or direction.  Yet, Erickson acknowledges that in Scripture:  “We are commanded to pray and taught that prayer has value (James 5:16),” (p. 430)[11].  An attempt is made to resolve these ideological activities that appear to exist in a non-harmonious paradoxical state.  Erickson advances the notion that somehow:  “God works in a sort of partnership with humans” (p.430)[12].

A view is advanced that may be perceived as inadequate, raising clouds of disagreement from the Calvinists and the Armenian camps alike.  In this perspective, man is allocated at least cursory activity of independence, while still embracing providential direction.  Prayer then is viewed from the human element as affecting only that, which is predetermined by God.  In other words, human will is brought into the language of eternity in the vocative sense.  Any deliberative activity for effective impact of any substantive value is precluded from this vantage point. 

As a means of communicative function, prayer can be viewed as an activation of God’s will directed toward man’s will.  As divine providence is entered into, the language constrictions of faith are super-imposed upon the human agent, creating a module of conforming substance.  Thus, prayer molds the person into the image and the exclusive vantage point of Him who providentially acts as the guide of creative essence.  Prayer then accomplishes much in the arena of conformity, changing the creature’s impulsive nature and fallen desires into a molded expression that walks in the dynamic relationship revealed by God. 

DOES PRAYER CHANGE THINGS (B)?

AN ANALYSIS OF: PRAYING THE LORDS PRAYER[13]

In the midst of the multitude and complex issues that the church faces in today’s modern world, the believer is left to ponder whether or not simplicity of life would be a preferable alternative.  Computers and the Internet, cars and the interstate: both have combined to increase the difficulties of ascertaining ease of life.  The world and its societies have become critically complicated in expressions of information and understanding.

The church has not been left immune to these societal changes.  Shifting information has been coupled with a recalibrated focus of intent, which has left many churchmen wondering where interaction ends and faith begins: in the task of influencing society.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer (Regal Books, Ventura, California, 1997).

Society appears to be in the business of shaping independent people.  This can be witnessed in the solitary expressions of life and occupation.  But is this a correct assumption, or direction, for those caught in the vortex of societal pressure? 


[1] Erickson, Millard, Christian Theology, Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1983, 1984, 1985, pp. 436-456

[2] McDonald, H.D., Jesus: Human and Divine, op. cit. (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1968), p.41

[3] ___ Flusser, D., Hillel and Jesus, op. cit. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis MN, 1997), p.120

[4]McDonald, H.D., Jesus: Human and Divine, op. cit. (Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 1968), pp.64-5

[5] Harris, Murray, Jesus as God, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids Mi, 1992), pp.222-3

[6] Draine, John, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments, Evans, Craig & Stanley Porter, Gen Eds. Op. cit. Article: Son of God, (IVP, Downers Grove Ill, 1997), p.1112

[7] Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids MI, 1939, 1941, p.165

[8]____ Ibid, Erickson, p.413

[9] Holcroft, L. Thomas, The Doctrine of God, Western Book Co., Oakland CA, 1973, p.48

[10] ____ ibid, Erickson, pp.430-1

[11] ____ Op. cit. Erickson, p.430

[12] ____ Op. cit. Erickson, p.430

[13] Towns, Elmer, Praying the Lord’s Prayer, Regal Books, Ventura CA, 1997

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