Posts tagged Larry Lacy
How is God sovereign if he is not in total control?0
First off I’d like to say that I’m a freshmen at Bethel College. I have held the ‘Open View’ for as long as I can remember. Not because I have seen all the Biblical justifications for it, but because I feel that the Open View is mush more consistent with who God is. I have always struggled with this question though, throughout the Prophets there is a strong emphasis on God’s Sovereigness. I have read what Dr. Boyd has said about this issue, but I don’t totally understand his position. How is God sovereign if He is not in total control? I believe that He is, I just don’t know how to defend that position. Any info. that you could give would be greatly. appreciated!
Reply to Aaron:
One point in response to this excellent question: Someone might argue that (a) God’s sovereignty is his freedom, power, and authority to do anything which is logically possible and which is consistent with God’s perfect goodness, and (b) that there is a great good for which God’s granting us libertarian free choice is a logically necessary condition (namely, a deeper kind of relation to God), and, hence, God’s controlling all events is not consistent with God’s perfect goodness and, for this reason, not within the scope of his sovereignty. But suppose someone is not satisfied with that conception of sovereignty and insists that God’s freedom, power, and authority is limited only by logical necessity. Given this second conception of divine sovereignty, any insistence by a theologian or philosopher that God must control all events is a tacit denial of God’s sovereignty. To say God is sovereign on this view entails that he has absolute control over his policy decisions. But to require that God control all events is to remove his control over his basic policy decisions. I.e., it is logically impossible that God, of necessity, control all events and that he be sovereign (on this second conception). Necessarily, if, of necessity, God controls all events, then God is not free to adopt as a policy decision to allow libertarian free choices. But if God is free to determine his basic policy decision about whether or not to control all events, then he may freely choose to do so. But if his choice in this matter is to be free–which it must be if God is to be sovereign in this second sense–then we cannot infer his control of all events from his omnipotence, omniscience, his being a maximally perfect being, or from any other divine attribute. Presumably we could only know what his free decision is in this matter by revelation. If we approach scripture with an open mind as to how God, at this highest level of policy decision, has exercised his sovereignty, then I think scripture witnesses to God’s having sovereignly granted libertarian freedom to us. So on either a more restricted view of divine sovereignty (restricted both by logical necessity and by God’s perfect goodness) or a less restricted view (restricted only by logical necessity), an argument can be mounted that divine sovereignty is compatible with the view that God does not control all events.
Click Next Page for More Responses
I suggest that Eph. 1:3-14 is not about the unconditional election of individuals to salvation, but about the condition of election. That condition is that the individual be “in Christ.” So far as I can see this passage is silent with respect to the question: “Who determines that a given individual is ‘in Christ.’” In almost every one of the verses, the phrase “in Christ,” or its equivalent occurs. The first two verses are, I believe, a key to understanding the passage. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Eph, 1:3 & 4) I think it is clear that v. 3 is telling us the condition for receiving “every spiritual blessing.” They have been given to us “in Christ,” so for an individual to receive these blessings they must be in Christ. So, v. 3 does not tell us who determines who is in Christ, but rather that God has determined that whoever receives these spiritual blessings receives them in virtue of being in Christ.
Having established that, we should notice v. 4, which talks about election, is joined to v. 3 by the phrase “even as.” The author seems to be saying that there is a parallelism between the fact that God has given us all spiritual blessings in Christ, and the fact that God has chosen us in Christ. Since v. 3 is affirming the condition that must be met for an individual to receive “all spiritual blessings”–namely, that the individual be in Christ, so v. 4 affirms that the condition which must be met for an individual to be chosen by God is that the individual be in Christ. Chosen for what purpose? I think the last part of v. 4 answers that question–”that we should be holy and blameless before him.” According to this interpretation, God does not choose who (which individuals) will be in Christ; he chooses that it will be those who are in Christ who will be his Sons, who will be holy and blameless. If he chooses person A to be holy and blameless, it is clear why he chooses A in Christ. Only those who are in Christ come to share his holiness and blamelessness.
Webmaster: I will make a stab at one of these verses, Eph. 1:11. Several things are worth noting: First, the main thrust of this verse (and the following) is to affirm that “we who first hoped in Christ” have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.” This says nothing (directly) about how we came to hope in Christ; it affirms only that it is we who hope in Christ who have been destined to live for his glory. Second, this verse not only affirms that God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, this verse gives us an instance of God accomplishing things in accordance with his will, namely, his predestination that those who hope in Christ shall live for his glory. Third, I have been using the RSV which says God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” The Greek word translated, “accomplished,” is energeo, which probably should be translated “works” or “operates.” God’s accomplishing all things in accordance with his will does sound deterministic, but God’s working all things (or working in all things) in accordance with his will does not.
Whether God’s operating all things in accordance with his will entails divine determinism of all event depends upon whether it is God’s will that his creatures have indeterministic freedom. If he wills that they do, then when he operates all things in accordance with his will, he will do so in such a way as to respect the freedom of his creatures. The following objection can be raised. How does God’s predestination of those who hope in Christ to live for his glory respect their freedom? The answer is that on the Open Theism view those who hope in Christ have freely responded to God’s prevenient grace and have formed the resolution to live for Christ’s glory. In determining that they shall do so, God confirms their free choice; he helps them do what they (by aid of his grace) have freely chosen to do.
Reply to Larry Lacy:
Regarding Eph. 1:11,
I concur with what Larry Lacy has said on this passage and would recommend that those interested in this text see The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election, by William Klein (Zondervan, 1990). Klein studies every biblical text on election, concluding that it is “in Christ” that God has taken a people unto himself. According to corporate election what God elects is a course of action and certain conditions by which people will be counted as “in Christ.” It is the group–the body of Christ–which is foreordained from the foundation of the world rather than God selecting specific individuals for salvation . Corporate election is more in line with the Hebraic understanding of corporate solidarity: we are one in Christ. The reader may also wish to check out Grant Osborne’s “Exegetical Notes on Calvinist Texts, ” in Grace Unlimited, edited by Clark Pinnock.
I would like to make some comments on election and God’s freedom. God created in freedom. God elected to work with Abraham in freedom. In freedom God elected Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau and the Israelites over the other nations. In these cases divine election comes first but election must be understood as resulting from the divine love for the sake of relationship. Consequently, a conditional element enters the scene: will the people accept the divine election and be faithful to it? Election is for the sake of service in order to accomplish the divine plan for all creation. God has elected a people in Jesus who are to be the bearers of a new era: Jews and Gentiles in one body, a redeemed people who will love God, one another and work to accomplish the divine enterprise for all creation.
Some may criticize open theism for seeing a conditional element in election. But actually, this is nothing new since the early church fathers, the Eastern Orthodox church, Wesleyans, and Arminians have all affirmed conditional election. For these believers, God knew through foreknowledge which individuals would exercise saving faith and thus God elected them based upon his knowledge of their free choice.
Click Next Page for More Responses
Thomas Jay Oord I understand what Rick is getting at, but I don't think I buy it. How can God's objectives be fulfilled and yet individuals be lost forever? I'd say one of God's main objectives is that all will be saved. To put it another way, it would be a real shame if God has objectives that don't include the redemption of all creation. It would be kind of like the shepherd saying, "Hey, I've got 99 sheep, why go looking for the lost one?"
July 29, 2013 at 1:29 pm