Volume 12, Number 1 (Spring 2001)

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  • by John F. MacArthur

    Open theism arose in evangelicalism over a decade ago when evangelicals posited a God to whom one can easily relate and who is manageable in place of a God who punishes sinners for their sin. This they did by proposing a model of Christ's atonement that was not substitutionary. To do so they adopted the model of the 16th-century Socinian heresy, which taught that God could forgive without the payment of a ransom. The biblical doctrine, however, is that Christ's atonement was substitutionary, a teaching that was not immediately defined in the early church, but which Anselm stated clearly during the 16th century. Open theists on the other hand tend to vacillate between the inadequate positions of Abelard and Grotius in their views of the atonement. Because of their distorted views of the atonement, open theists do not belong in the ranks of evangelicalism.

  • by William D. Barrick

    Translation of Scripture should be faithful to the original languages of the text, but should also communicate the text's meaning accurately to the modern reader so that he may reach proper theological conclusions. That poses a difficult challenge because of the great distance between classical Hebrew and various modern languages. Three passages from Genesis illustrate the interaction between translation and theology. Genesis 12:3 illustrates the importance of Hebrew syntax and the importance of not excluding possible interpretations in passages with debated meanings. Genesis 19:24 shows how translations may obscure important details and why one should not impugn the theological positions of translators on the basis of renderings of isolated verses. Evangelicals with sound theology should take the lead in Bible translation because of the inevitable effect of a translator's theology on the accuracy of the translation.

  • by Robert L. Thomas

    That a single passage has one meaning and one meaning only has been a long-established principle in biblical interpretation. Among evangelicals, recent violations of that principle have multiplied. Violations have included those by Clark Pinnock with his insistence on adding "future" meanings to historical meanings of a text. Mikel Neumann and his expansion of the role of contextualization, Greg Beale and Grant Osborne and their views about certain features of Revelation 11, recent works on hermeneutics and their advocacy of multiple meanings for a single passage, Kenneth Gentry and his preterist views on Revelation, and Progressive Dispensationalism with its promotion of complimentary hermeneutics. The single-meaning principle is of foundational importance in understanding God's communication with mankind, just as it has been since the creation of the human race. The entrance of sin in Genesis 3 brought a confusion in this area that has continued ever since.

  • by Don E. Green

    The ipsissima vox position views the Gospels as containing the concepts that Jesus expressed, but not His very words. This essay focuses on the use of ancient history and parallel scriptural passages to support the ipsissima vox view. Advocates of this view regularly cite Thucydides as furnishing a pattern for how NT writers quoted their sources, but this precedent breaks down for a number of reasons. In addition, it does not take into account the difference between Greco-Roman writers and Jewish historiography. The reliance of ipsissima vox on parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels also falters. On one hand, proponents of the position use accounts of events that prove nothing regarding accounts of spoken words. On the other hand, they make no allowance for explanations in accounts of spoken words that adequately account for differences by assuming an ipsissima verba view of the quotations. A further failing of the ipsissima vox position is its failure to account for the role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Gospels. Recent evangelical proponents of this system have yielded too much ground in their discussions of the accuracy of these books.

  • by Michael J. Kruger

    A simple statement from a kindergarten song such as "the Bible tells me so" is sufficient to prove the truthfulness of Christianity. That fact should prove to Christians that defending their faith from the standpoint of neutrality is fruitless. Believers have become enamored with a neutral starting point in apologetics because of the influence of modernism and postmodernism in today's culture. Such a neutral beginning point is impossible because of a disagreement with unbelievers over the nature of knowledge. Also, neutrality is ineffective, because it grants autonomy to the unbeliever by releasing him from the authority of the Bible, and is inconsistent, because the Bible makes it clear that Christ is the source of all knowledge. Since the Bible is sufficient in apologetics, Christians should attack the unbeliever's worldview in addition to defending his own. God's claim on the human intellect is absolute, not minimalistic. Because of this claim, apologetics is theological and not just philosophical. Arguing presuppositionally by using the Bible as the ultimate authority enables the Christian to cut the legs from under an unbeliever's argument.

  • by Mark Mercer

    Daniel 11:37-38 cannot refer to Antiochus IV Epiphanes as four of the five views regarding Daniel 11:36-45 hold. The two verses indicate that the individual in view will not show favor to any gods and will honor a god of fortresses who was not worshipped by his ancestors. Antiochus does not fit either of these descriptions, particularly in his religious gifts to Greek cities that were of a religious nature. The balance of evidence favors the fifth view that holds Dan 11:36-45 is a prophecy to be fulfilled by a future king.

Volume 12, Number 2 (Fall 2001)

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An Issue Devoted to the Subject of The Openness of God Controversy

  • by Larry D. Pettegrew

    The importance of one's view of God highlights the necessity of learning about Open Theism, a new approach to understanding God that deviates substantially from classical theism. Open Theism contends that some things happen that are contrary to God's intentions and that He took risks in creating a world in which He does not know and control everything. Open theists defend their system by claiming that classic theology suffered ill effects in the early church and throughout church history when theologians allowed their thinking to fall under the influence of secular philosophy. In response, classic theologians point out the same problem with Open Theism. Open theists also defend their view by reinterpreting OT passages so as to disallow anthropopathisms in biblical descriptions of God and by passages emphasizing divine ignorance. In reconstructing the doctrine of God, open theists emphasize the love of God above all His other characteristics, deny the immutability and impassibility of God, dispute God's full control of world affairs, and question God's exhaustive knowledge of the future. They further defend their doctrine of God by claiming their system as a better explanation of human tragedies. Their view of God forces a revision of other areas of doctrine, including eschatology, angelology, Christology, and soteriology. All of Open Theism's distinctive positions are contrary to sound biblical teaching.

  • by William D. Barrick

    A proper understanding of two OT prayers, one by Hezekiah and one by Moses, helps in determining whether prayer is the means by which God gets his will done on earth or the means by which the believer's will is accomplished in heaven. A chronological arrangement of the three records of Hezekiah's prayer in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah reveals the arrogance of Hezekiah in his plea for God to heal him. Because Hezekiah missed the opportunity to repent of his self-centered attitude, God revealed that his descendants would become slaves in Babylon, but Hezekiah's arrogance kept him from being concerned about his children and grandchildren. His pride further showed itself in his inability to trust God for defense against the Assyrians. God healed Hezekiah, not so much because of his prayer, but because of the promises God had made to Hezekiah's ancestors about sustaining the Davidic line of kings. Hezekiah's prayer changed Hezekiah, not God. Moses' prayer in Exodus 32 sought a change from God's expressed intention of putting an end to Israel and starting over again with just Moses. This suggestion was not something the Lord ever intended to occur; such a course would have voided His expressed purpose for the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49). God did not change His mind regarding His plan for the twelve tribes; He rather altered the timing in order to keep His promises to them. What He did in response to Moses' prayer cannot be taken as normative action. His "change of mind" was a tool to elicit a change of response in Moses. Moses' prayer changed Moses, not God.

  • by Trevor C. Craigen

    Eight sermons in Isaiah 40-48 pose a challenge to Open Theism's limitation of the Lord's power and knowledge of the future. Rhetorical questions and declarations about the certainty of divine purpose are two literary strategies employed by Isaiah. Rhetorical interrogation and appropriate vocabulary and facts characterize the first sermon in Isaiah 40. These constitute a powerful indictment against Israel for her lack of trust in the Lord. According to Isaiah 46, He planned the creation from outside of time and history and implemented His plans within time and history. Isaiah 44 cites classic examples of His governance in world history, including His naming in advance a Persian king who would decree the rebuilding of Jerusalem. These sermons also cite the deeds of the Lord in dealing with Israel and the nations. The sermons, though addressed to Israel as a rebuke for her idolatry, also point out the error of Open Theism in that system's demeaning of God and exalting of man.

  • by Robert L. Thomas

    Like other recent evangelical innovations, Open Theism has faltered through its use of errant hermeneutical principles. It has adopted a wrong view of general revelation, has allowed preunderstanding to produce a subjectively biased understanding of various texts, has used 1 John 4:8 as an interpretative center for the whole of Scripture, and has followed a discourse analysis approach that fails to take into account the context of various statements. Open Theism views the sovereignty of God as limited, an inadequate view that is especially prominent in the way it advocates handling Romans 9-11. A careful tracing of the reasoning of Romans 9 in particular reveals that the open-theistic view that God has surrendered some of His sovereignty is totally unbiblical.

  • by Richard L. Mayhue

    Gregory A. Boyd has written God of the Possible to promote "Open" or "Free-will" Theism at the grassroots level of Christendom. This volume proposes to show how classical theism is inferior and Open Theism is superior. In this reviewer's opinion, Dr. Boyd has failed to prove his point and accomplish his purpose for at least eight reasons. First, the history of orthodox Christian doctrine declares against, not for, Boyd's position. Second, God of the Possible depends upon philosophy, not theology to prove its point. Third, this volume deifies man and humanizes God. Fourth, Boyd discards the unknown, mysterious dimensions of God in his discussions. Fifth, the book is built with an aberrant methodology. Sixth, Boyd's position diminishes the Almighty's deity. Eighth, the author downplays determinative biblical texts. For these points, God of the Possible and Open Theism are judged to be heretical. Thus, the church needs to be warned to reject these ideas, not to entertain or embrace them.

  • by Dennis M. Swanson

  • Divisive Unity   (231-47)

    by Iain H. Murray

    Murray introduces the origin of Evangelicalism Divided by recalling a meeting in 1966 at which Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke on "Evangelical Unity," and had his position challenged by John R. W. Stott, who closed that meeting. The anniversary of that meeting and another series of circumstances led Murray to research and write Evangelicalism Divided. A review of nineteenth-century British church history revealed the cause of the division: liberalism that crept into the church allowed for a faith in Christ without revealed truth and an authoritative Bible, i.e., a new definition of a Christian. When this happened, some evangelicals left the mainline denominations, but others remained and maintained a close tie with other evangelicals who had left. When Billy Graham came to England, he was welcomed by evangelicals, but at first shunned by denominational leaders. Yet when the leaders saw Graham's large crowds, they accepted him. Some understood the leaders' change as a new openness to the gospel, yet those leaders were just using Graham as a tool to bring people into their churches. Under the pressure of ecumenism, Graham and others began to think in terms of winning denominations back to evangelicalism, and eventually fell into the error of compromising evangelical doctrine. Two basic problems contributed to the division of evangelicalism: neglect of what makes one a Christian and neglect of the depth of human depravity. Lloyd-Jones diagnosed the problem as an evangelical dependence on human methods and a failure to rely on the Holy Spirit.He offered a positive alternative to evangelicals: dependence on God alone and the sufficiency of the Word of God.