...thoughts expressed here are not necessarily
November 14, 2005 First day at Work
Not much to say, I am on overload this week- several
14 hour days at M-H, but it is probably for the best to get in the preliminaries
quickly and cut to the chase...
Notes this week: Larry gave me the heads up, sadly,
Rogers is home at last...
|"There has never been a greater day to preach
the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than today," Rogers
said when he preached at the Convention this past June 20. "Somehow,
we get the idea that poor God, He's not able to do what He used to
"I want to tell you, my friend, God is still God. He is not old.
He is not sick. And He is not tired. The problem is not with God....
Don't you insult God by saying that [revival] can't happen."
Dr rogers death is sad, but not unexpected. When I saw
the pictures of him, I anticipated he was on his way home. He was both
a great, great preacher and yet a common man- it was not unusual to run
into him at the Piggly Wiggly shopping with the rest of us. I remember
how remarkably tall he was from standing in line behind him once. His
legacy and impact will go on to the glory of God!
I am back online today!
After a short hiatus when I moved and started a new
job, I am back... good thing too, since i had a test due today in my online
November 11, 2005
IF GOD IS TIMELESSLY ETERNAL AND ABSOLUTELY IMMUTABLE, HOW CAN HE RELATE
TO US, HIS CREATURES, WHO LIVE IN A MEDIUM OF SPACE, TIME, AND FLUX?
When the doctrines of eternal timelessness and absolute immutability are
taken together, it logically follows that God is absolutely impassible.
This prior view says that God does not change in any way in respect to
creation. However, if this is true, it follows that He is unaffected and
without emotions in regard and relation to His creation. This paper will
show it is apparent that to hold these related positions dogmatically
is to attest to a God who is foreign to Scripture. God is actively involved
with man in space and time, and our salvation depends upon being rightly
related to Him. That presupposes that this real relationship is possible.
For most of the history of theological inquiry, men were preoccupied with
protecting the perfection of God. With classical theism, several motives
can be discerned for timelessness: Boethius and Anselm held that eternity
as totum simul ensures that God possesses a complete and unfragmented
life. This was thought to be essential to God's perfection. According
to Augustine and Aquinas, timelessness reconciles divine immutability
or immutable action, especially in creating, with God's eternity. Boethius
and Aquinas held that timelessness apparently resolves the incompatibility
problem between God's certain foreknowledge and human freedom. In addition,
as an aspect of the simplicity of God, impassibility was an uncontested
assumption of orthodox theology for most of church history. The Gnostics
sought to attribute to God human emotions and affections. The Patristic
Fathers were in accord in their opposition to this issue. Said Anselm,
"For without doubt we maintain that the divine nature is impassible
that it cannot at all be brought down from its exaltation."
Thomas Aquinas' view of the immutability of God precluded any real relationship
with creation, only a rational one. God foreknows from eternity that his
creatures will be related to Him, and this alone is the basis for any
relations with creatures. In Thomas' view, whether the world is empty
or teeming with creatures of every sort, there is no difference in God;
in fact, the logical conclusion of his argument leaves no real reason
for why this or any other universe at all exists. But this leaves us with
two problems according to John Yates: "How can atemporality relate
to temporality?" (The Vertical Problem), and "How can eternity,
as totum simul, relate to and embrace equally past, present, and future?
" (The Horizontal Problem).
Process theology arose in opposition to the classical notions of God's
inability to really relate to the world. However, with the work of Alfred
North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, the pendulum would swing to the
opposite extreme. Process answers the relational problems with an affirmation
that they have no logical resolution if God is absolutely atemporal and
The process approach is to deny both qualities as true of God, and rather
that He is "absolutely relative". To quote process theologian
Charles Hartshorne, "The difference between ordinary and divine relativity
can be expressed in many ways. One way is this: God is relative, but what
we may call the extent of his relativity is wholly independent of circumstances,
wholly non-relative. Regardless of circumstances, of what happens anywhere
or when, God will enjoy unrestricted cognitive relativity to all that
coexists with him.
This "God" is mutable and related to all. Every experience of
the universe feeds into the ontological reality of and constantly "improves"
this God. This is the doctrine of eminent relativity or "surrelativism"
in which God is dipolar- supreme absoluteness and supreme relativity.
He is independent of all yet recipient of all. God is absolute in the
sense that He is absolutely relative.
In an attempt to find a viable middle ground between the positions of
Classical and Process approaches, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders,
William Hasker, and David Basinger. have emerged as leading proponents
of open theism. As a logical extension of Arminianism, open theism has
come to be the most substantial challenge to orthodox evangelical theology
in the new millennium. While it holds to several tenets that are easily
affirmed, it strays from the Biblical witness in several key areas. It
is predicated on a false notion that God relates to man in a way that
affirms libertarian free will. Where man has not made a free choice, God
cannot know what that contingency will be, the argument goes.
The God of Open Theology is Pinnock's "most moved mover" whose
foreknowledge is contingent upon the sovereignty of man's free will. God
can only respond to our decisions: immanence supplants transcendence;
God risks, regrets, and has no knowledge of the future.
Bruce Ware proposes a middle way he calls "relational mutability:"
This is held in conjunction with and in validation of God's ontological
and ethical unchangeableness.
"What needs to be considered here
is whether there might be
some sort of change that involves no qualitative increase or decrease
in the nature of God. And regarding this, I think the Scriptures clearly
affirm over and again that there are such changes in God, changes in his
relationships with his creatures, changes in his attitudes toward themchanges
that express rather than compromise the very stability of his immutable
moral nature as He relates himself appropriately to changing human and
we do want to affirm that He does change in his
dealings with peoplebut this change only occurs in a way that reflects
his unchanging essence, attributes, and the moral commitments that He
extends in grace to His moral creatures."
William Lane Craig contends that extrinsic change is possible without
"An intrinsic change is a non- relational change, involving only
the subject. For example, an apple changes from green to red. An extrinsic
change is a relational change, involving something else in relation to
which the subject changes.
The Bible has no problem affirming that God is changeless in some senses
and yet interacts passionately with his creation. He is eternal, but operates
in the space time continuum in creation, sustenance of that created order,
and in miraculous interventions in nature as well.
The Bible portrays God as changeless in Psalm 102:25-27, Malachi 3:6,
and James 1:17. These passages reveal God in His own person as being permanent,
constant, and unchanging in nature. From the theological perspective,
Charnock held that God is unchangeable in essence, knowledge, and in regard
to His will, purpose, and place.
Therefore in his Being and in his ethical responses, God is immutable.
This is in keeping with the classical position.
However, in relation to his creatures, the Bible portrays God at work
in time and space. The God of Scripture knew us before the foundation
of the world. He created with a plan
of redemption in mind. As the Lord over time, He guides the course of
history according to His plan of redemption. In Genesis 1:14, God established
the days and seasons by which time is measured. God is the Lord over the
unfolding of time's events, and according to Daniel 2:21 and Acts 17:26,
He brings the nations onto the stage of time and makes them pass off it.
Since He created, and therefore transcends time, God is not bound or limited
by it. (Psalm 90:1-4). God's purposes always come to pass in time (Isaiah
46:10) because He works all things according to the counsel of His will
The best way to look at God's relationships in time is that He is neither
atemporal nor merely temporal, but rather omnitemporal. Though God transcends
time, He entered into it, and there is no moment in time in which it can
be said that He is not imminent. As David declared in Psalm 31:15, 'My
times are in your hand." God reveals Himself at sovereignly appointed
times (Acts 1:7) and will bring about the consummation of history when
His Son returns in glory (Ephesians 1: 9-10; 1 Timothy 6:15). God's remarkable
entry into time is reflected in some of His names as revealed in Scripture:
the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 21:6, 22:13), the First and Last (Isaiah
41:4; 48:12), The Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), and King of the Ages (1
Timothy 1:17; Revelation 15:3).
Time reveals in its chronology God's redemptive plan. Time is a tool of
righteousness in God's hand to provide a stage for the revelation of His
glory. In His sovereign timing, God reveals that "in the fullness
of time" (Galatians 4:4-5) He intervened in time and became Emmanuel,
"God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Neither is Jesus limited by time:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews
13:8). Christ's relationship with man is not merely incarnational in nature.
Christ existed before time and sustains all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians
1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3). He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the
world. In Revelation 22:13 He is called "The Beginning and End"
along with the Father. He said in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was,
I AM." It is I AM who has ordered our days before we were born (Psalm
In God's economy of time, "Now is the time of God's favor, now is
the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2); now is the appointed season
to declare this divine mystery hidden from ages past (Colossians 1:26;
Titus 1:3). God's plan of redemption is marching towards a final conclusion.
The Bible speaks of the "Day of the Lord, the last times, end of
the ages, and the end of all things. This eschatological, temporal finality,
a last judgment, and an eternal kingdom are spoken of with certainty for
believers. Soli Deo gloria!
Isaiah 51:8b says, "
but my righteousness shall be forever,
and my navigation from generation to generation." According to Jonathan
The fruits of this work (redemption) are eternal
fruits. The work has an issue. But in the issue the end will be obtained,
which end will never have an end."
Time is real for God. It becomes the vehicle by which He makes known his
purposes, plans and will known to man. He really relates in real time.
One point at which the concepts of time and affections coincide is in
the anger of God. Yahweh "expresses his wrath every day" because
He is a righteous judge (Psalm 7:11). Conversely, God is merciful and
not easily provoked to anger (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8-9). God displays
his wrath within historical events, as in Israel's wilderness wanderings
(Psalm 95:10-11) or the exile (Lamentations 2:21-22). But his wrath will
be fully expressed on the day of wrath at the end of the age, when all
wrongs will be punished (Zephaniah 1:14-18).
The revelation of God throughout the Old Testament divulges a compassionate
Yahweh: God grieves (Gen. 6:6); God gets jealous/angry (Ex 20:5); feels
compassion (Deut 32:36), pity (Judges 2:19), sorrow (1 Kings 10:9), and
sympathy (1 Chron 16:27). In the Psalms the Holy Spirit attributes to
God: happiness (Ps. 2:4); gladness (Ps. 5:5); satisfaction (Ps. 18:9);
love (Ps. 35:27); God delights (Ps. 37:2), gets pleasure (Ps. 103:13);
and rejoices (Ps. 104:31). Further, the prophets tell us that God enjoys
His creation in Ezekiel 5:13; He delights and sings in Zephaniah 3:16.
And God laughs in 1 John 4:16!
If these are all merely anthropomorphisms, it is difficult to see how
a real relationship is possible. The notion that God is impassible must
be evaluated not in the light of any theology other than Biblical theology.
The unmoved mover concept at its core reveals itself as unscriptural if
it is applied to Gods relational interaction with His creation.
God knows the beginning from the end. This is indeed a mystery how He
can relate to us when His foreknowledge demands He knows our choices before
we make them- but this is part of what makes Him God and us NOT God. He
does no violence to the will of the creature. He is morally and ethically
immutable- His character remains the same- yet He is moved to compassion,
He desires and seeks.
Reformed theologians, following in the classical tradition, tended to
follow an Augustinian line of thought. Bavinck held that what change there
is, is wholly in the creature:
"There is change around, about, and outside of Him, and there is
change in peoples relations to him, but there is no change in God
God, though immutable Himself, can call mutable creatures
Though eternal in Himself, God can nevertheless enter
into time and, though immeasurable in Himself, He can fill every cubic
inch of space with His presence
It is a mark of Gods greatness
that He can condescend to the level of His creatures and that, though
transcendent, He can dwell immanently in all created beings... God puts
himself in all things in those relations to himself, which He eternally
and immutably wills- precisely in the way in which and at the time at
which These relations occur."
Yet real relations are not a one-way activity. The condescension, entering,
and dwelling Bavinck speaks of are real acts in space and time. God was
in a state of non-condescension, and then He sovereignly chose to be in
another relational state.
But what of timelessness? How can a timeless being be a personal being
in relationship with finite creatures? In regard to timelessness, Frame
holds that "God is..present in time as the Lord, with full control
over the temporal sequence
God accomplishes his purposes in the
fullness of time. Theologians have often said that God never changes in
His essence, but does change in relation to His creatures. God sees all
of time as one in and of Himself, and yet He also can see it from within
the perspective of temporality. He created time, fills, and comprehends
it. God's immanence is derived from His transcendence. When He created
He began to act within temporal sequence, designating succession of day
and night. This is to be distinguished from process theology which destroys
the transcendental nature of Gods essence in an abstraction and
requires a pantheistic dependence upon creation for His existence.
God is infinite-personal. He chooses to create us in the imago Dei and
then to interact with us on that basis. Not only does God relate to us,
we are without excuse when we do not acknowledge His manifest presence
of his invisible attributes made known to us through creation. To deny
this evidence is to suppress the truth (Romans 1:19).
Typically, detractors from the possibility of an infinite-personal deity
propose certain criteria which serve as necessary conditions of personhood
and then seek to show that an infinite being fails to meet these standards.
In his helpful survey of this issue, Yates observes that these criteria
tend to fall into three broad groups: (1) criteria based on states of
consciousness, (2) criteria based on intentionality, and (3) criteria
based on inter-personal relations.
William Lane Craig writes that even if God is timeless (as He contends),
He still meets all these criteria for personhood. Craig quotes Yates,
"The theist may immediately grant that concepts such as memory and
anticipation could not apply to a timeless being. But this is not to admit
that the key concepts of consciousness and knowledge are inapplicable
to such a deity. There does not seem to be any essential temporal elements
in words like 'to understand,' 'to be aware,' 'to know.' An atemporal
deity could possess maximal understanding, awareness, and knowledge in
a single, allembracing vision of reality."
If these attributes of personhood are granted for an atemporal God, how
much more do they attain when we consider that the bible indicates that
God is omnitemporal?
The scriptures attest that God changes his attitudes and responses in
relation to his creatures. In fact, as Ware points out, this sort of change
is in keeping with God's onto-ethical immutability. It is inconceivable
that God would violate his own righteousness by responding to those found
in His favor and those at enmity with Him in the same way. The Bible reveals
that God wants us to know that He never changes: yet He responds to us
passionately, not impassibly; really, not merely rationally. God does
not deem it necessary to explain the dynamics of this in human terms.
Our relationship with God is unique, righteous, asymmetrical, and yet
real. Let this be known: any relating God chooses to engage in will always
and forever be for His glory and to His glory, and for our glorious good.
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and B. Richardson. (Toronto & New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1976).
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae, IA. 13, 7.
Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.
John Bolt, general editor, John Vriend, translator.
Charnock, Stephen. Discourses on The Existence and Attributes of God Vol
1. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House: 1979. Reprint of The 1853 edition.
Craig , William Lane. Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship
to Time. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing,
Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948).
Pinnock, Clark; Rice, Richard; Sanders, John, Hasker, William; and Basinger,
David. The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to The Traditional Understanding
of God. (Downer's Grove: InterVarsity, 1994).
Yates, John. The Timelessness of God. (Lanham, Maryland: University Press
of America, 1990).
Craig, William Lane. "The Craig-Curley Debate: The Existence of the
Christian God." Available at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-curley06.html.
Accessed November 1, 2005.
Ware, Bruce. "An Evangelical Reformulation Of The Doctrine Of The
Immutability Of God". Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society
29:4 (December 1986).