Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Post: Continuing the discussion on Open Theism

This is the second guest post ever published on Deconstructing Neverland.  It comes from Tom Jones, the nephew of Mark Jones who wrote the first guest post (although he didn't know it) as a response to my post on Open Theism.  As far as I know, Tom is not a blogger but you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

I received this as an email response from Tom to uncle Mark.  (For some unknown reason Blogger would not let either of these responses be published in the comments.  Is anyone else having this problem posting comments?)  Like Mark's response to my first post, I thought this was too good to be left in the comments so I asked permission to post it as a guest blog.

Voila!  I submit the following for your reading pleasure...

In full disclosure I have never read this blog before, I got here from Mike Jones's twitter account who is my uncle. After reading through the discussion I think I can add some clarifying thoughts on the issue.

Mike, you said, “In the Calvinist view, God has already laid his plans, and needs no joining with Him to make anything come to pass.  We are simply acting as God plotted from the beginning.” I would agree and disagree.

  • Agree, that God does not need us joining with him in order to fulfill his will. This is clear in the Bible when God, to fulfill his purposes of election and creating a people for himself, gave life to the loins of Abraham and the womb of Sara though they were both old, and broken down. They were physically unable to have children and yet, from out of nothing God created his people (Gen 18:9-15,Romans 9:11).
  • Disagree in that our omission to act bear no consequences and that God-because he is sovereign-does not desire and want our cooperation with him. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 in the Parable of the Talents that it will be the faithful servants who took the gifting God blessed them with and used it for the spreading of his fame and Gospel that will be rewarded and hear, “well done me good and faithful servant...enter into the joy of your master.” The slothful servant who was lazy and afraid will get nothing.
  • Yes, God is sovereign. Yes, he calls for his people to be faithful and grow in faith and holiness and to work out their salvation.

The second and final push-back I would give is with regards to this statement, “‘In order for God to bring about good, something must happen that is bad. If God pre-ordained and planned all things, that means He also planned the bad things.  Since bad things must happen in order for us to trust Him to work all things together for good, that means God is responsible for evil .  I personally do not believe that God has pre-ordained evil,  or any bad things so that He can bring about good for those who trust Him.  From your own statement of trusting God to bring about good for those who love him, I don't think you do either. So what then? Why are we trusting God to bring about good from bad things, if in fact He caused the bad things?
That leads me to the conclusion that God did not ordain evil, but evil is a consequence of men and Satan using our God given free-will to chose things in opposition to God's will.”

The question of ‘Does God Ordain Evil’ is presented quite clearly in the Bible. It's a tension God has no problem with. I will use just the Crucifixion to show you how God can sovereignly work through the actions of moral beings to bring about his will.
  • The pre-determined betrail of Jesus. Luke 22:22, “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” Jesus goes as it has been determined by God-decreed since before the foundation of the world, written about since Genesis 3:15, prophesied about by the prophets of old- BUT, ‘woe’ to Judas who does it. Was the betrayal God’s eternal plan? Yes. Does that mean Judas is off the hook? Absolutely not! Judas is still very much culpable for his moral choices.
  • In Acts 2:22-23,36 Peter is addressing the Jews and says, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross...Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”  The Holy Spirit speaking through Peter reveals that God preordained Jesus’ death, but who does he says ‘put him to death’? The Jews with the help of the ‘wicked men.’ Again, Sovereignty and yet, we’re responsible for our moral decisions.
  • Similarly, in Acts 4:27-28, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” God’s sovereignty over the crucifixion. But in Acts 4:10 Peter again blames the people for crucifying Jesus, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.”
(That's just 3 examples from the Crucifixion of Jesus where God soverengly planned the death of his son(evil act) to save his people from their sin(bring about good).  There’s more I’ll point to, but I wont spend time showing them. You should read them on your own and study more about how these two truths coexist in God’s word.)
  • In Job when Satan comes to God and God says, “have you considered my servant Job” and then in chapter 2 tells Satan “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”  Job’s response to it all shows his knowledge of God’s sovereign hand over all things-good and bad. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
  • In the Fall itself we see that God was orchestrating and moving. “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20-21) In the creation story there are three possible answers for who could subject creation ‘in hope’: Satan, Adam or God.
  • In Genesis chapter 20:1-6 We see God being the active agent in NOT allowing Abimelek to sin against God. God literally stepping in and not allowing sin to happen.
  • Rev 17:17 “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled."
  • 1 Samuel 2:25. The sons of Eli are wicked young men. Eli pleading with his sons to stop sinning against God and yet, it was the will of God to kill them.
  • Isaiah 10 God raises up Assyria as an instrument of judgment against Israel, Judah and Syria. “Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a Godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think...”
  • Other places: Amos 3:6, Amos 4, Genesis Ch37&45 (Joseph sold into slavery), Jeremiah 25:9,12 send the Babylon into Israel and then in verse 12, judges Babylon for taking Israel, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is attributed to both God and Pharaoh.

This is why rest in Romans 8. Because if God is for us who can be against us? The Christian knows that whatever may come(as in Job's case) the Lord is still sovereign and working. He is either the active agent in bringing it about or allowing Satan to(Job, Luke 22:31), either way God is for us!!

Is God sovereign, totally omnipotent? Yes. Does he work through man, willing us, charging us and through us? Yes, scripture makes that clear. Does God still justly judge men for their evil actions? Yes. Does God require our action Yes! Is it sinful if we are slothful and lazy? Yes! Do we still ask and plead with God through prayer and fasting? YES!! Both truths agree and stand shoulder to shoulder. We don’t get to sit back and say, “well you’re sovereign God. You could have done something if you wanted.” The Bible never allows us that.

Does it all makes sense and tie into a logic bow? No, but that’s the point. He’s God, we’re not. I see both truths in scripture. I can’t logically understand it, I just submit to what His word says and trust it over my understanding. He’s sovereign, omnipotent and yet, calls me to pray, fast and work out my salvation with fear and trembling. That’s God’s word, that’s where I stay.


  1. I think the most compelling passage on sovereignty is Romans 9.  Paul discusses God hardening Pharaoh's heart.  And he says God hardens whom He wills.  The obvious question then is:  19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"
    20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"
    21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
    22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-

    Similar to the last few chapters of Job, Paul answers the question with a question: "who do you think you are?"  The question leads to a discussion of how we can judge God or His intents (not possible in our finite human mind).  The passage makes it very clear that God has complete right over us and exercises that right in the examples Paul gave.

    My issue with many of these doctrines is that we tend to "back into" them.  What I mean is: we take a scripture and then create a theology centered around it based on our experiences.  For instance, someone might not believe in miraculous manifestations of the Spirit while some do. Both point to scripture and use it to prove their points but really they have a preconceived idea and they're backing into the scripture to support their point of view.  One of the arguments I've heard about God's sovereignty is that we couldn't truly love Him if we don't choose Him.  In my view that opinion is based only in an experience as I have never heard someone use scripture to "prove" it.  It's using a logic system based on the way we've been taught to think to come up with an argument against a particular theology.  That was a mouthful.  But what i mean is: We're all limited in our abilities and reason so we try to form arguments that make logical sense to us.  I agree with the poster and his conclusion.  I certainly don't understand or can explain God's ways... I'm just a man.  That's one of the reasons it's great to have these discussions.  These issues don't divide us.  It reminds us of who we are in position to Him.  Praise His name!

  2. Neale (and/or?) Jenn,

    love what you've said here. In fact my post which should publish in about an hour deals with the logical end of the argument that you've hit on here.

    I also have a post dealing with Romans 9 that will publish on Thursday from a slightly different perspective. If you're interested, come back and check them out and let me know your thoughts.

  3. Awesome! I'm looking forward to the Romans 9 post. It's just very interesting to me that when God's judgment is called into question it's answered with another question. Like Paul here and then Job. Instead of defending himself God says, "I laid the foundation of the world. I manufactured light and darkness with my conversation. What have you done?"

  4. Greetings folks.

    I'm glad you enjoyed Tom's response to my response to Bobby's post. That's a mouthful, too!

    Clearly there are differing opinions on how to interpret the scriptures and how they apply to our lives. Some people take the "mystery" stance that, because it seems not to make sense, then God must have a higher meaning to it that I simply don't understand. Others, like me I'll admit, tend to filter scripture through our experiences and seek to find harmony between our experiential observations and what scripture says. Not to take anything from or add to scripture, but to apply it experientially to life, because, after all, God wants us to live out his Word in our lives, right? I mean, that's the purpose, to experience full, new life, the life that Jesus brings, not only hereafter, but here now.

    If the scripture doesn't seem to make sense, then I have to assume the scripture is correct, and my understanding of it is lacking. From there (where, let's face it, we all start and for the most part stay all of our lives) all doctrinal thinking is, at it's essence, an attempt to square what we read in scripture with how we see life in the world.

    To that end, I've written a response to my nephew, addressing his post as best I can, at my own blog. I put it there, with links back to your blog, Bobby, because it is far too long to post at a comment.

    Thank you for being a gracious blog host, Bobby, and for considering the conversation in love, as you have. We can agree to disagree on the small things, as long as we agree on the nugget of Christ above all, and God's grace that saves us, yes?

  5. Mark,

    I've gained much from reading and conversating on this subject. I'm very glad you didn't give up and decided to email me when the comment box wouldn't work for you.

    sharing our viewpoints in a loving and edifying manner is the whole point of blogging IMO. In some ways it is a part of sharing Christ with one another here and now. I'm anxious to read your response so I'm clicking over now.


As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.