Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Why I think I was wrong

Well, after a Bible study last night taken by Andrew I have now adopted the Open View (see His comments). Instead of thinking God is outside of time, I think He's in time just as we are. There are two major ways of thinking of this.

View One: God knows all that can be known, and the future is not actually 'known' - even by God. God sees only a raft of possibilities and probablities based on His knowledge. Quite literally, the future is possibility which hinges upon individual choice - and God does not know exactly what individuals will choose. See the last post as to why this knowledge cannot allow Him to know exactly what we will do, as there is Biblical support for this. However, being all-powerful, what He says He will do in future, He is capable of doing (take Judgement for example).

View Two: God can look ahead as well as back, and see the actual future and actual past. However, this means (as did my previous post theory) that God still is faced with decisions and a degree of uncertainty due to our free choice. My argument for this is in the next paragraph - just skip it unless you want your brain to hurt =)

Consider this. God can look 'ahead in time' and see an action that He chose to make, and the consequences of that action. But, what He sees only is so because of His choice - it is a logical consequence. Therefore, in order for God to 'choose', there must have been the neccessity for God to decide which action to take. Before He actually chooses, the choice is not made and therefore the future remains only as possibility until He actually chooses, and acts a certain way. But of course, God knew this would be His choice because He knows what the actual future is.

In this (quite confusing and probably wrong) way, God is still in time as we are, and has to make choices as we do (but with lots more wisdom and thought about what could happen), but He knows the actual future and so can accurately foretell what occurs. The only thing I can think of that really throws a spanner in here is when God says that, for example, the actions of Israel "did not enter my mind." Such verses strongly indicate to me that God in fact does NOT know the future. This is why I think I must now believe the first view.

Note that in both these situations, God cannot change what He actually does. Just as we cannot change the past, God cannot change an action He performs. Thus, God can regret his actions, as He says in the Bible. The things that remain involve prophesy and foreknowledge.

Prophesy can be considered in two ways. Firstly, prophesy interpreted as what God believes will happen - and being God, His guesses are quite accurate (but not always accurate). This one works quite well for some cases. Secondly, prophesy as a declaration of God's intent. This one works quite well for many prophesies. This second one also works in with foreknowledge. After looking at many verses speaking of predestination and foreknowledge, I have reached this interpretation: Knowing the possibility of people rejecting Him, God decided beforehand that in such a case He would send His Son to redeem them. He knew that this plan would see them transformed into His likeness, etc, and therefore could speak accurately of foreknowledge and predestination.

Note that I think all these verses on predistination and foreknowledge are in a general - not a specific - sense. For instance, "whom he did foreknow" is not referring to specific people, but rather those people that He knew beforehand would be transformed to the likeness of His Son by the plan of Salvation. It's not 'whom He knew beforehand, who He knew would be transformed to the likeness of His Son by Salvation'', but rather 'any people (whom) He knew would be transformed to the likeness of His Son by Salvation beforehand.' Note the similarity of words and phrasing, but difference in meaning. He foreknew the general path of Salvation - not who exactly would take that path.


Fraser Dron said...

I guess I agree with most of the Open View, although I worry that it attempts to explain God's abilities and limitations a bit too precisely, and in terms that a human can understand (a characteristic of 20th-century theology??); obviously he's a lot bigger than we can even begin to describe.

Hm, I suspect God occasionally reads the predestination vs. free will theses and has a quiet chuckle...

michelle said...

the thought popped into my head whilst reading this post, if perhaps it wouldnt be impertinent of me to suggest that we all stop trying to figure God out, as he IS God after all... and just concentrate on living for his glory? lol :)
I think no matter how hard we try, we will never figure him out, so it may be better to think less about it, and making confusing theories, and focus more on how awesome he is, regardless of whether or not we understand him?

hee hee =) its good to think about things, but perhaps theres a point where it doesnt really matter? =o)

michelle said...

aw! just as i pressed 'publish' another sweet thought drifted into my mind... have a childlike faith, not a scientist faith.
Accept God without questioning too much, or else your questions and misunderstandings can get in the way of your relationship with him =)

I guess its easier to just say "hey... my prayers work" than to think about whether or not God is IN TIME, OUT OF TIME, if he is capable of acting, if he pre-empts my prayer, etc etc etc... and sometimes the easiest road can really be the best road =)

Philotas said...

Man i love this sorta stuff! :) real brain pretzels!
(and silly me, i had my favorites list linked to a specific post, so i missed out on this till now! :P)

Ok, i think, like Michelle faith is a good thing, but I also think that its just interesting to toss around concepts like this. I mean, in the end, none of this is really essential. But still its good fun to talk and think about.

Now, with the OV, i think its a very dangerous viewpoint to take. by saying that we follow that we are shaping God in OUR image, applying human characteristics and limitations to him, (very much the same as happened in earlier cultures through Anthropomorphism, giving the early pantheons).

I like all the allegories and metaphors, but think that they all have their innacuracies.
I think that, the 4D blob version, while not really excellent, is a good way to conceptualise. Time has already ended. we are just moving along towards the end. So therefore, through free choice, which we truly have, our decisions have been made by us, in the future.
God doesnt exist 'outside' time which is a human concept, but he is 'beyond' time. he transcends it.
He can look at time as an entirity, or as we see it (he became truly human).

The picture has already been painted. we aren't moving within it, but our lives have already been drawn. Not by God, but by our own actions. time is complete, and God can look at it and know how we lived. Each individual has the choice, and is therefore responsible for their end reward (hell/heaven).

The alternative possibilities dont really exist. i mean, i love the 'crisis on infinite Earths' (DC)and 'Days of the future past' (MARVEL) scenarios, and love the head spins they give, but really they dont exist. The choices we make are what we have made. and what we will make. we chose them, but at this point in time, we just havent got to the point where we chose them yet. therefore, there is really only one way things can turn out, and God can see that way.

God COULD step in (poking the blob :D) but he doesnt. not because he is cruel, but because he loves us, but wants us to find our own way, by our own free will to him. Even though it hurts him so much, and makes him incredibly sad to see us choose the wrong things, he made us with free will. freedom is ours. but what he wants is for us to surrender to his will, voluntarily.
But again, to him, this has or hasnt already happened. even for us. we may choose this sometime in the future. or we may not. but time is complete. all we are doing is travelling through it

Ok! thats all for now, i think i said what i think? not sure. ill come back to it! :)

Nathan said...

Doesn't this mean that God has to actively force people to do stuff?

God hardened Pharaohs heart - if God wasn't outside time, then this hardening had to be direct, violating Pharaoh's free-will. In which case God condemns Pharoah.

The reason this is different to a molinistic approach is that in such a case Pharoah and God choose Pharoahs destiny. Pharoah still gets a choice. But if what you are saying is correct, this means that God actively mediates people's behaviour, and violates free will directly.

Some people may not like this idea.

Fraser Dron said...

Where in the bible does it say that God has to respect every single person's free will? Not that I'm a Calvinist!

incognito said...

Philotas, sorry I don't know your real name, you're quite right - God transcends time. I like to think of it now like time is like the house a builder makes. The builder can walk through the house, but he transcends the house in an obvious way - He made it.

Nathan, you appear to misunderstand the story of Pharaoh and Moses. God clearly desired to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. It would be thoroughly inconsistent to believe God by His spirit actively hardened Pharaoh's heart. The vast majority of interpretations of this story hold that Pharoah's reaction to God's actions was to harden his heart. Certianly, God had predicted his heart would be hardened, but God did not DO the hardening - God did the plagues, etc.

If anything, this story shows God's respect for people's authority and free-will. God could have miraculously freed His people - not even talking with Pharoah, or perhaps striking him dead - but instead He seeked to persuade the one who was in authority over them to release them according to his will. Certainly, He actively attempted to persuade Pharoah, but never did He FORCE his will or his heart.

Anonymous said...


I don't think it's necessary dangerous to "shape God in OUR image". The Bible says man is made in God's image and likeness. If A is like B then B is like A. That means God is like man. The Bible very often uses anthropomorphic language to describe God. I fully accept that God is greater than man, and beyond our full understanding... but to take a somewhat anthropomorphic view of God isn't a great error like you make it out to be. You suggested such anthropomorphism was similar to the Pagan ideas, but you need to remember that one reason many people are OVers is because many of the "standard" classical Christian ideas of God have actually been heavily influenced by classical Greek (pagan) philosophy - Plato, Aristotle etc.

What makes you sure that time is a human concept? How do you know God exists outside it? Is that based on Bible verses or assumptions?

Regardless of whether God is outside of time, and of whether the universe is already finalised and now just been played out: At some metaphysical event, God created the world, and actions within time were finalised. Now God clearly acted within time when He spoke with the Prophets, inspired the Bible, came as Jesus etc. The question is simply: As the events in space-time were being finalised, what sort of knowledge did God have of it? It's all well and good to say that God creates the 4D space-time blob and *then* gains full knowledge of the future due to his timelessness, but that doesn't answer the question of what sort of knowledge God had as the world was being finalised.

The point is this: God may be outside of time, but every time He interacts with us, He is interacting INSIDE of time. Thus at the point when space-time was being finalised, there seems no reason to think He had full knowledge of the future because it hadn't yet been finalised. Only once the space-time is finalised does He seem to benefit from his outside-of-time knowledge and by then it's too late to do anything, due to the fact that space-time is finalised.

Andrew W.

Nathan said...

Reuben, Perhaps you will excuse me for misunderstanding the story of pharaoh, especially with these passages:
A few instances of Pharaoh's heart being hardened, by God, and as God had spoken.A particular instance, where we see what God has done. A random proverb demonstrating God's purposesWhy does God say to moses that he will harden pharaoh's heart if in fact he isn't going to harden pharaoh's heart?

incognito said...

Nathan, I am simply attempting to get you to see the story in an entirely different paradigm. Once you know this other paradigm, feel free to decide as you wish between them, but it seems you do not see where I am coming from. You appear to be interpreting the verses through the glass of your own mindset, and I am simply suggesting you remove the glass - or even replace it, and see what a different interpretation you get. I will try to explain again.

Read through the story again, and find out Pharaoh's reactions. The Bible usually says, "he [Pharaoh] hardened his heart" in response to God's action. God's actions therefore can be said to harden Pharaoh's heart - but only because Pharaoh responded by hardening his own heart.

By way of illustration, if I were to physically hurt you, you would probably get angry right? Here's the distinction. I act toward you, but you become angry out of your own free will. I would have therefore not directly made you angry - I would have just hurt you. You would have got angry all by yourself. Of course, most sensible people would say I angered you, because it correctly ties in the cause with the result, me hurting you, and your anger. But this does NOT mean that I FORCED you to be angry - NOR does it imply that was my intention was to anger you. If you were a sheep stuck in a fence, my hurting you would be to ultimately free you. If you were Pharaoh, my angering you might simply be to ultimately free God's people from captivity.

Can you see the parallels? Can you see my point of view?

Philotas said...

just replying to Andrew's post.

I guess in this first matter its a case of why we think that way. ie. why we are trying to define God as a human. If our attempts are trying to imply that we are not far from being like God, then we are wrong, snd shouldnt be doing it. B is like A but it never can be A, in no way shape or form, not even close. This is what the Humanist viewpoint ultimately ends with - the belief that all men can become (or are) their own gods.
Someone once said (cant find the exact quote quite possibly a Presbyterian Minister) "God created us in his image and we've been returning the favor ever since." . This makes God subject to changing views in society (eg. painting Jesus as a) left wing socialist/feminist/right wing/prosperous materialist) thats what i believe is dangerous about trying to define God in our own image. instead of him being God, he becomes a constantly changing ideal. (see Malachai 3:6)
If we are trying to give him human properties as a metaphor kind of thing, i think thats less harmless, and is us trying to explain him. But of course then that leads us around in circles, trying to explain the unexplainable (inexplicable?) (see i cant even explain my grammar/spelling! what hope have i got?) :)

I think that time is a human concept because, we came up with the name for it. and the theory that underlies it. all based on human wisdom (sure there have been tests and experiments and such, but how many times before have other theories been proven wrong?)


"How do you know God exists outside it? Is that based on Bible verses or assumptions?"

"As the events in space-time were being finalised, what sort of knowledge did God have of it? It's all well and good to say that God creates the 4D space-time blob and *then* gains full knowledge of the future due to his timelessness, but that doesn't answer the question of what sort of knowledge God had as the world was being finalised.?"

/end snip

Good questions. i think of it like this. God has completed this 'blob' (blob including earth and all the universe etc). he made it, and because he made it he knows about it from beginning to end. I wont go further here, because if i say that knew each bit as he made it, then i am implying that he is existing in time. (past-present-future)
But again my thinking is flawed here, because i can only imagine it based on human concepts. in Genesis, We have the creation story showing God speaking and it was done. It probably was just like that.
But then again (oh im going to regret this. i can sense the brain pretzel forming already! :P) In Genesis God also has to rest after each 'day', which implies God was acting 'in time'. but it also describes the first day (Gen 1:5) putting this in context with resting it could be taken to mean that God created time, which means he transcends it, but can exist in it if he chooses.

Taking your point of view for a second, which argues that God is not outside of time, this (to me) seems to diminish him, making him Subject to time, and unkowing of the future.
Reuben wrote that it could be God stating what he is going to do (if he exists and is subject to time) but how does that account for having The Book of Life (see Daniel 12:1) everyone who is to be saved is already written in that book. God could only know that if he was privy to the future. which, i think, implies that he exists beyond time, or at the very least, can see all time together.
Zechariah 14:7 - God knows when these things will happen, he isnt just saying what might happen. (see also Matt 24:26)

Another factor that im using to support my argument is the book of Revelation. God shows John in this book what will happen. He takes him through time (in his visions) and shows him. So this shows that God has made the future, and knows what is going to happen. God does not exist in time, but is beyond it, because he made it, and knows how it is going to play out.

/snip snip snip

"The point is this: God may be outside of time, but every time He interacts with us, He is interacting INSIDE of time. Thus at the point when space-time was being finalised, there seems no reason to think He had full knowledge of the future because it hadn't yet been finalised. Only once the space-time is finalised does He seem to benefit from his outside-of-time knowledge and by then it's too late to do anything, due to the fact that space-time is finalised."

/end snipping

yes it's finalised, time has been completed, but since God is there looking over it, it can't be 'too late' because it can always be changed... God has plenty of time! ;)

Man i can't wait to get to heaven, finally find out how it happened, and then look back on myself now and laugh hey! ^_^

Ok, dude.. im totally spent for the day! :) lol.. i dont think ill be updating my Blog today! or..at least ill wait a few hours! :D

Nathan said...

It seems like there are two conversations are going on in the same comment thread...

Anyway, I think I see where you are coming from. If I may venture a further question, isn't this still forcing pharaoh's hand?

Philotas said...

Watch the Prince of Egypt Video.
Man i love that movie. great score.. great emotions :)
Hey! I just watched it again tonight!

A great interpretation :) and a suggestion into the Pharaoh's psyche and to why He or God may have hardened his heart..
man im going to have those songs going around in my head alllll day tomorrow! Oh well.. tis better than the alternatives! :)

incognito said...

Philotas, Daniel 12:1 is talking about whose names are FOUND written in the book. Isn't that an interesting ues of words. Furthermore, this is clearly referring to the rapture where the Church is taken to Heaven. There is no connotation of prior knowledge here. As for God knowing when He shall return... of course He'll know - He's the one coming! It's not like He could surprise Himself is it? God decides, and therefore knows when He'll come.

Nathan, yes, one could say God definately used force to persuade Pharaoh, so you could say He 'forced his hand.' But God did not force his heart. That's the key difference I think. I have no problem with God messing around in the world, He clearly did that heaps in the OT - but I think He doesn't mess with people's hearts unless they let Him. He stands at the door and knocks, He doesn't smash the door down.

Anonymous said...


I'm very sympathetic to Eastern Orthodoxy, so I've got no problems with your "humanist" ideas about the potential similarities between God and man. Deification was a Christian doctrine a millennia before modern humanists borrowed it.

I fully agree that it is entirely possible that God is outside of time and hence knows about the world from begining to end. However, as I pointed out, that doesn't prove the OV wrong: If God gains that knowledge after space-time is finalised then that timeless knowledge cannot be used to effect events in space-time.

Does it really matter if the OV "seems to diminish him"? Surely it is purely human wisdom that says that God should be as great as we can possibly conceive him to be?

If you look at the book of Life references in the Bible, you'll find they suggest that everyones' name starts off in the Book and God scratches them out one by one as time progresses. The Bible only ever speaks of names being "blotted out" and never of names being added: eg Exo 32:32, Psa 69:28, Rev 3:5.

According to the Open View, prophesies are possible because:
1) God is all-powerful and so can decide to bring something to pass, and hence tell His prophets of His intentions.
2) Anything that will happen in all possible futures is 100% predictable to God.
3) God may wish to tell us the probable future, though such prophesies will not be infallible.
There are numerous examples in the Bible about God changing his mind and statements about the future not coming to pass. The particular examples Reuben seemed to find most convincing are the ones where God states that the current present state of the world had never entered his mind: Jer 7:31 & 19:5.

See here for an OV explanation of Revelation.

Andrew W.

Anonymous said...

Hey Reuben,

That's a really interesting way of interpreting the Pharaoh passage... I'd never thought of that before. Yes, I know you've tried to explain it to me before, but I've never understood your explanation until now.

Andrew W.

Philotas said...

Then let us agree to disagree. :D As Linkin Park Sings: "In the End, it doesn't even matter" :)

incognito said...

Nice, Andrew. And yes, Philotas, that's why such discussion is only helpful to a point. I think it's time for the next topic... =)

incognito said...

Well, now I am considering changing back to View Two. It is more confusing, but it fits with both Classical and Open Views.