The Personality of GodDecember 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Exodus | 4 Comments
Tags: commentary on Exodus, Exodus 14, Exodus 32, free will, imminence of God, intercessory prayer, Open Theism, sovereignty of God, Sunday School lessons on Exodus, transcendence of God
Shortly after the exodus from Egypt the Israelites became panicky and dissatisfied, and reminded Moses that they had previously told him to leave them alone so they could go back and side with their slavemasters against the God Who wanted to set them free.
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
In Chapter 32, as Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai, and God sees the people’s shameful idolatry around the golden calf, God tells Moses to leave HIM alone so that He can deal with them according to their sin.
Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
This is pointed mockery by God, as He suggests allowing the people to do what their actions indicate that they really want: to deal with Him without an intercessor (in their case Moses, but also foreshadowing Christ’s role as Intercessor). However, God’s suggestion is also a thinly veiled invitation to Moses to decline to “leave God alone.” It is obvious that God is giving Moses the opportunity to stay and intercede on behalf of the people – which he does.
Moses’s beseeching and pleading by appealing to God’s past deeds, glory, promises, and Word were successful.
And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Moses “changed God’s mind” in a sense, although God’s perfect will was still being sovereignly worked out in this apparent reversal. The Bible describes this scenario a number of times when various servants of His intercede in prayer in response to His stated intention to bring wrath and judgment. However, none of these scenarios ever describe what is known as “Open Theism.” Open Theism is a technical heresy intended to: (1) make God seem actively involved in human affairs, as opposed to fatalistically predetermining all events, and then passively watching them happen; and (2) justify God’s alleged failure to overrule evil in the world.
God does not need this help. He is imminent as well as transcendent, and the existence of evil in the world is not a “failure” on the part of God, although He does choose to allow it. Augustine argued that evil is not a “thing,” but simply the absence – in varying degrees – of good. An analogy is the sense in which darkness is not a “thing” in opposition to light, but rather the absence of light. In other words, Augustine posited that God is good and that evil is a privation of good.
That’s certainly one way to think of it, but another way to think of it is that God is a person, and not a force. This reminds us that, even if we must attribute responsibility to Him when evil happens, He still can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. He doesn’t just know the future – He also has already made choices about the future and is already there “eternally” in the “future.” In other words, there’s no real “future” to Him. Omniscience requires no surprises – no “new” or “acquired” information or knowledge – because “omni” means “all,” “everything,” not a “figuring out,” or deciding upon, possible alternatives.
The underlying motivation for Open Theism is a desire to say that we have pure free will – that we are not being “controlled” by God. What this ignores is that everyone is being controlled – under either system. You are either controlled by yourself or by one greater. If the “one greater” is God – the loving, gracious, merciful, true, and right God, Who is a real “person” – then why would we even want to suggest that we should be “free” from Him and beholden to our own choices?