February 11, 2009

Common Sense on Prophecy

God doesn't "see the future". He calls his shots. Then he hits them. (But only when he feels like shooting.) At least, that's how I see it. There is no future. There is only the physical realm, the spiritual realm, and the now.

God's also really good at predicting trends, because he sees 100% of all existing data in streaming real time awareness, including human nature and individual character. Aside from that, if God predicted something that even threatened to begin to go a bit off course, he could put it right back on again through any number of direct interventions. Hello? (Duh.) He's GOD.

When Gabriel spoke to Daniel, Persia had already taken Babylon, Macedonia needed another 150 years to build an effective mastery over its vast resources, and social-darwinism had been working on the robust migrants to Italy's peninsula for over two centuries. The inevitable political evolution and expansion must have been - to God's vantage point - largely as predictable as the strategic geography and gene pools involved. Plus, he could nudge it.

What we see in history as hindsight, I believe God simply foresaw in megatrends. So he knowingly looked around and said I can finish my plan in 490 years. Then Gabriel told Daniel some things to look for. And then God made sure it did happen.

Whatever predictions He's made, fulfilling them must be an active process. But guys who act like certain future events are already set in stone don't make any sense. It seems to me that God actually does play dice with the universe, except that he often "cheats".

Full disclosure: I've never studied Calvinism and Armenism (sp?) except the night I wrote my college paper on Paradise Lost. Personally, I've always preferred Hamlet's certain providence. "If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all." So maybe all I'm doing here is proving how ignorant I am of theology and prophecy. Or maybe that's precisely the reason I'm really writing this post! ;)

As I was reminded yesterday, subjective interpretation of prophecy can be one cause of bad religious chronology.

11 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

Bill, I think you are an Open Theist, whether you know it or not, as well as apparently a theistic evolutionist. Or perhaps since you suggests God "cheats" you are more into intelligent design.

I won't hold this against you, although I'm not quite sure I agree. I don't think God needs to cheat. After all he set up the game perfectly, and was able to build into it that his purposes would be fulfilled within it without cheating. That is more like theistic evolutionism.

But something beyond that must have happened at the Resurrection, the beginning of a new phase of the game, with new rules which go beyond the ones we are used to.

Bill said...

:)

Thanks for the new words, Peter. I'll probably look them up soon. ;) I don't know what I am, by I yam what I yam. So if I happen to fit 100% with anybody's "isms" it's purely by accident, I'm guessing.

The new creation does, indeed, play by different "rules". Praise the Lord.

But I don't think spirit puts us "outside of time". Time is just a convention of measurement - which someone informed me may be what Einstein meant when he said it was "relative". The 4th dimension doesn't actually exist. It's just that stuff moves around a lot. ;)

I do assume that Eternity, where God lives, must be free of physical dimensions, which excludes motion, which technically excludes "time". So God does not change. Yet he IS Life. And Living things have to Move. I think these points help explain why he created the physical universe and why the New Jerusalem is pictured as perpetually "coming out" of heaven, a city of both realms.

There is one form of life that does break all the rules. :)

Celucien L. Joseph said...

Bill,

I will not call you an"open theist" yet. I'll give an opportunity to repent:)

But I do think biblical prophecy should be interpreted in relationships(or in light of) with divine providence, God's foreknowledge and human freedom and agency. This is a complex subject. Isn't it?

Bill said...

You too, Lou? Dang. Now I seriously have to look up those terms. And in case anyone thinks I'm only joking, I honestly have no idea what they mean.

The last three sentences of my post told the real story. This is armchair philosophy and nothing more.

Now that you mention it, though, "predestination" and "foreknowledge" have always been among those NT words I just shrug and move beyond. I honestly suspect they might not mean what we think they mean - but I also do not have a clue of my own what they mean. I never gave it much time.

I may be among those most ignorant in matters of what is properly called "theology" and would be delighted to remain so. :)

Hopefully, that makes me a better event reconstructer - not a worse one.

But please don't think I'm deliberately prejudicing myself here for that specific purpose. Both points are just incidental to who I am. Or have been so far.

But brothers, if there's something else I really need to know here, what is it?

Celucien L. Joseph said...

I did a five part series on Open Theism ( here's the link:http://lou9587.blogspot.com/search/label/Open%20Theism) . Here are some notes about the Openess of God theology

Open theism is a theological and philosophical approach to the doctrine of God. Open theists hold that the future consists partly of settled realities and partly unsettled realities. God is omniscient, knowing all that can be known, but this does not include the future acts of free creatures. Consequently, the future is genuinely open, even for God. In other words, God knows all that shall be and all that may be, but his foreknowledge of the future (acts performed by volitional agents ) is not exhaustive and comprehensive.

Openness theology takes our relationship with God seriously. Hence , its advocates emphasize an anthropological approach to God. Proponents of this view stress a "performative relationship" with the personal God . In other words, the manner which human beings respond, perform or act toward God is an important feature.

In an important work entitled, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understand of God, a collaborative effort of several open theists (i.e. John Sanders, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, Clark Pinnock, Willam Hasker, and David Basinger), Pinnock's dictum clearly describes the movement:

"Our understanding of God of the Scriptures lead us to depict God, the sovereign Creator, as voluntarily bringing into existence a world with significantly personal agents in its, agents who can respond positively to God or reject his plan for them. In line with the decision to make this kind of world, God rules in such a way as to uphold the created structures and, because he gives liberty to his creatures, is happy to accept the future as open, not closed, and a relationship with the world that is dynamic, not static. We believe that the Bible presents an open view of God as living and active, involved in history, relating to us and changing in relation to us. We see the universe as a context in which there are real choices, alternatives and surprises. God's openness means that God is open to the challenging realities of history, that God cares about us and lets what we do impact him. Our lives make a difference to God--they are truly significant. God is delighted when we trust Him and saddened when rebel against him. God made us significant creatures and treats us as such. We are significant to God and the Apple of his eyes." ( Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994], 84)

Below I outline some basic tenets of open theism and a few corresponding texts.

Basic Tenets of Open Theism-
1. Love is God's greatest attribute ( 2 Kings 20:1-7; Joel 2:13-14; Jon. 4:2)
2. Human beings are volitional agents. Their will is truly free in the libertarian sense
3. God knows the future partly, not exhaustively (Num. 14:11; Hos. 8:5; Ex. 3:18-4:9-
13:17
4. God is a risk taker (Gen. 6:5-6; 1 Sam 15:10, 35; Ezek. 22:29-31
5. God learns new ideas (Gen. 6:5-6; Ex. 16:4; Chro. 32:31)
6. God innovates his plans based on human response (Jer. 38:17-18, 20-21, 23).
7. God changes his mind (Ex. 32:14; Num. 14:12-20; Jer. 18:7-11)
8. God normally knows what he intends to do, not what others will do (Num. 14:11;
Hos. 8:5; Ezek. 12:1-3)
9. God makes mistakes ( Is. 5:3-7; Jer. 3:6-7; 19-20

Sorry for this long response. Forgive me:)
Blessing,
Lou

Peter Kirk said...

Bill, it really doesn't matter if you understand all this lot or not. It's not going to affect your salvation or anything like that. Although I guess there are people out there who will say you can only be saved if you are a five point Calvinist, which neither you nor I are. It's just that if you want to be taken seriously by "Professors, Post-Grads, and Everyone Else" as someone knowledgeable whose posts are worth commenting on, you really should learn to at least pretend that you know these big words. ;-) So try something like this in reply to me:

"Thanks for your response, Peter. I accept much of the Open Theist position. But I am not entirely happy with some aspects of it which I need to study more carefully."

With a reply like that no one need know that you have never even seen the words before! ;-)

Celucien L. Joseph said...

Bill,

You're a historian by nature. A little theology might help a fine NT historian like yourself.

:)

Bill said...

Brothers, I'm honored to have friends who take that much time educating me.

Peter, I might pretend my feet don't stink, but I can't pretend to know stuff I don't know and I wouldn't pull it off very well if I tried. But I assume you're at least partly teasing on that point. I am of course hoping to be taken seriously on event reconstruction. Chronology and logistics feels infinitely more tangible to me than theological interpretation. However, I will admit I told my wife last night the reason your help was important on this is so I can avoid being dismissed by people who'd ascribe me completely ignorant over a particular ignorance. Overall, however, my plan is to be transparent and make up for it by showing my eagerness to learn. :)

Lou, thanks for the extensive analysis. I'm pretty sure I disagree with a lot of the official position. At the very least, I'm positive none of it ever occured to me. My "armchair philosophy" was based purely on my thinking about time itself. Ideas like the effect of prayer, free will, the nature of love, or the nature of God just aren't much on my radar.

I did agree with this quote at the start of my own research last night (on wiki, but with citation): "...to say that God doesn't know the future is akin to saying that he doesn't know about square circles. In this understanding, it could be technically wiser to refer to the view as "Open Futurism". That line makes perfect sense to me.

I had another thought last night, of my own, after reading several O.T. websites. Quoting myself, "I'd imagine I have as much freedom and ability to change God's plans as my son has to change his parents' plans for our family. Certain things are negotiable. Other things are going to happen a certain way whether he likes them or not."

Guys, my impression of theology has been that it's very concerned with classifying what types of things are negotiable and to what degree. I don't care. I approach my God with requests when I feel like it's really important. I know that sometimes he may do things just because I ask him to. The extent of my limitation on that bargain has infinitely more to do with respect and humility than it has to do with any special estimation of what's allowed.

I may eventually hurt myself with such a disrespectful view of theology so I do normally try to tone it down. You're both right, at least, that I should know more basic terminology. So I genuinely thank you brothers again for educating me here.

Please keep it up! Your tuition rates are extremely reasonable. ;)

Bill said...

Oh, there is one thing I "ask" for and receive instantly from God at some pont almost every day. Most often, it happens without words.

I 'plead the Lord's blood'. And I thank him for his mercy.

Is there anything else? One thing. I'd like to see the Lord expand. But change? No, there's nothing else I need the Lord to change. As long as He is Him, I'm good. We just need More of Him...

I'm really not at all concerned with future events, except in my hopes for the Lord's house.

I yam what I yam. God is "I am who am". Life in two realms "is what it is". But the future does not yet exist. That's all I know.

So now, brothers... what do you say that I am? ;)

Peter Kirk said...

Yes, Bill, I was mostly teasing. But I think it would help you to understand a bit more about things like this. There are plenty of introductory guides around I'm sure, but I don't know quite what to recommend.

Bill said...

The biblio-blogosphere. I just pick up stuff like this by 'listening' to you guys.

Seriously, again, many many thanks. :)

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