Monday, November 20, 2006

Thoughts on God

“Christian Standard” magazine recently published a two-part series on “open theism.” I found them stimulating. It will be a while before that issue impacts the local church, but the concepts of “open theism” will undoubtedly stir controversy.

At issue are the existence of evil, man’s free will, and predestination. Open theists argue that if God genuinely permits free will then He can’t foreknow those choices which have not yet been made. Further, prayer truly impacts God and He can decide another course of action. It is all thought provoking and challenging. The arguments also tend toward the philosophical and disregard or reinterpret those passages speaking of God’s foreknowledge, predictive prophecy, and providential control of individuals and events.

I like articles like those in “the Standard” because they challenge me to try to get my mind around difficult concepts. Some around here think I’ve done that so long that I can no longer communicate for the average person. After reading these articles, however, I pretty much returned to my earlier conclusion that finite man simply can’t comprehend the actions of an infinite God. God chooses to reveal Himself to us. He did so through the prophets, but in these last days He did so through His Son (Hebrews 1:1, 2). God could never reveal everything about Himself, but when Jesus came He came with skin on and when we see Jesus we’ve seen the Father.

The articles have the impact of raising our comprehension of the Father beyond the mundane. One of the dangers, in my view, of open theism is the insistence that love is God’s primary characteristic. If so, the open theist must do more than make the assertion. They must also explain what they mean because this culture’s concept of love has little relationship to the biblical concept. It is precisely because we’ve identified love as God’s primary characteristic that our culture has lost any sense of reverence for Him. We tend to see God as a loving God who overlooks every errant behavior because He loves us. Such a soft incomplete view of God has been “out there” for a long time. I’m old enough to remember the song “He” back in the 1950s. Those who sang it on the “Hit Parade” sang it just as written:

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live,
He’ll always say, “I forgive.”

Garbage! That’s just not true and it has the stench of hell around it. The second line needs amending to, “He’s always ready to forgive.” Now that’s more like it.

You see, the open theists got it all turned around. God’s primary characteristic isn’t love. He is love, but that’s just one of His characteristics. First and foremost, God is holy. Our God is a holy God! From God’s holiness come the twin demands of love and justice. God’s holy justice demands sin be punished. God’s holy love desires the salvation of the sinner. Only the atonement satisfied both requirements (see Romans 3).

Wrestling with the concepts presented systematic theology is great fun. I’ve learned so much from a study of systematic theology. But when the “rubber hits the road” it all comes back to “what does the Bible say.” We “speak where the Scripture speaks ….” I don’t have to understand everything there is to know about God to establish a personal relationship with Him. I expect to learn a host of subtle nuances about Him as my faith in Him grows deeper. At the same time, it is not knowing a lot of information about God that is so important. Knowing God trumps that! Having a relationship with Him does not require exhaustive knowledge. I’ve been married for 41 years now and I’m still learning things about my mate. Why should I expect it to be different with God?

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