A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 12
How Do I Know God?
In this lesson, Dr. Breshears discusses various ways of knowing God, drawing on the Middle Ages philosopher Thomas Aquinas's three approaches: causality, negation, and eminence. The lesson challenges the traditional doctrine of immutability, suggesting that God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical examples, even though his essential character and purpose remain constant. The instructor emphasizes the importance of studying the Bible in-depth to understand God's nature and encourages open dialogue and exploration of differing theological viewpoints.
How Do I Know God?
I. Introduction to Creation
A. Definition of Creation
B. Historical and Cultural Context
II. Biblical Perspectives on Creation
A. Old Testament Views
B. New Testament Views
III. Theological Implications of Creation
A. God's Character and Nature
B. Relationship with Creation
C. Human Responsibility and Stewardship
- In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
- Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
- This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
- Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
- Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
- This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
- In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
- In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
- This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
- This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
- This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
- This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
- Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
- This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
- Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
- This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
- Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
- Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
- This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
- Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
- This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
- This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
- In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
- You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
- This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
- In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
- This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
- You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
- From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
- By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
- Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
- In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
- This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
- Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
- Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
- This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
- In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
- From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
- This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
- Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
- Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.
Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
How Do I Know God?
Well, one of the questions we have to deal with and we won't deal with really here is how do I know God? Because, "Read the Bible." Well, it's a little more than that, as we've talked about already in some of our methodology statements. We've got which view accounts to the most data with the fewest difficulties? And then you read in diverse community and read it in context and those kinds of things. But in knowing God, the Middle Ages, the high work summarized in Thomas Aquinas, the great doctor, the incredible genius who synthesized a millennium of thinking about God in his Summa Theologica, he had three ways of knowing God. One is a way of causality, one is a way of eminence and one is a way of negation. So causality, what's an adequate cause for the result that we see?
So we look at creation, what could be the cause of creation, and that was his famous arguments, the five ways or ways of causation. So what's an adequate cause for this event? And that was a way of knowing. A second way of knowing for him is the way of negation. This is bad, God has none of it. A third way is a way of eminence. This is good, God has all of it. Now, my problem with that is that it's philosophical because you begin with an understanding of what's good and bad, so the way of negation something that's bad, we all know that emotions are bad and we don't want to be found emotional. So what we say about God is we say emotions are bad. So that's an im, which is a Latin way of saying not. and we say God is impassable, and that means God has no emotions.
So in Westminster Catechism, God has neither body parts or passions and we affirm God is impassable. And two generations ago, if we said God is impassable, that is God has no emotions, yep, exactly. God is pure will or God is pure rationality. You try that today and people laugh at you. You're kidding me. Have you read about love? Well, see, the two generations ago and Thomas Aquinas know, an emotional love is a non-dependable love. You've got to have a love of commitment. And so impassible was completely accepted by the church, and not that long ago. Today it's a laugh line. But see, the thing is it came from a way of negation. Emotion is bad and God has none of it. He's impassable. Now, another way of negation is change is bad. We know that, so God is unchanging. What's the Latin for unchanging? Immutable.
Now, I'm going to unpack that one a bit, but that's an immutable, and I think what happens is we approach this philosophically. We bring things into the equation that are not biblical and because we have an advanced commitment to God being immutable, then we come to the conclusion that God can't change or God can't respond. Now, we'll unpack that a bit. I'm just giving you a bit of an introduction here and again, it's in your notes. So if immutability is a bad thing, changeability is a bad thing, a good thing would be knowledge. So God has all of it, it means he's omniscient. God is all-knowing. And I'm not going to unpack this one particularly, but one of the arguments that goes on, if God is all knowing, if God knows the outcome of moral decisions, then those moral decisions are determined and there's no free will.
So the Calvinist on one side, John Piper is going to say God is omniscient and therefore actions, there is no contrary choice. Our actions are determined. Greg Boyd uses the same argument from his Open Theism and say, "No, God does not know the outcome of our moral decisions because if he knew them, they would be determined. And so Piper uses it in one direction to argue for his view of sovereignty, Boyd uses the same model for saying God does not know the outcome, but says he's omniscient because God knows all things, and the outcome of moral decision is not a thing until it's made. So he argues in Open Theism in general that God does not know the outcome of moral decisions, but he's omniscient. He knows all things.
But my decision about how many times I'm going to kiss Sherry when I see her tonight is a decision that's not yet been made, so he doesn't know. He can predict with certainty at least once unless she's asleep. And I don't know she'll be asleep when I get home late tonight, but see, God doesn't know either from that view because it's a moral decision. So omniscience is what does God know? And I'm going to argue he knows all outcome of all things. And if I were to unpack it with you, I'd go to Jesus' prediction of Peter. He says, "Before dawn, you're going to deny me three times," and he's [inaudible] He knows Peter's a flake because Peter's not a flake.
That night, he's putting his life on the line for Jesus. He says, "I'll lay my life down for you," and he does. He takes armed soldiers with a fisherman's knife. He lays his life down, but he still denies Jesus three times before dawn. So how does Jesus know that? Because he knows the outcome of moral decisions. How did he get that? He got it from God, I think. So omniscience. Another one is omnipotence, it means all power. So today in our world that we live in today, power, good thing or bad thing? In our world today, power, good thing or bad thing?
A lot of people would say bad thing.
A lot of people would say bad thing. How come?
It gets manipulated and abused.
They see power being used to dominate and destroy. And so we have a deep idea that power is a bad thing, so today omnipotence is not a given because power is not looked at as a good thing. And you have a lot of people that say, "No, God is not omnipotent. In fact, he refuses to be omnipotent. Maybe he could be, but he chooses not to be omnipotent because power is a bad thing." There's a lot we could do with that. If there was a longer course, I would. But my thing is about how do you know God and the way of causation? What's an adequate cause? At best, you get to a deistic God from that. The way of negation, I'll look at immutability because I think that leads us to half right things in the way of eminence.
It depends on what I define to be good or bad in the first place, and I think what we have to do is take what the Bible says and what view accounts for the most data with the fewest difficulties. So I'm going to take immutability as a example of this, and I've got on your handout here. What I'm going to suggest to you is God does not change in his essence, character or purpose. So when you're filling in the blanks on the handout, if you're doing it that way, God does not change in his essence. He does not become more or less God. He is not changing his character, so he does not become more or less compassionate. He can become more or less angry because that's not a fundamental attribute. He does not change in his fundamental purpose, but I'm going to tell you why.
I'm going to come out and I'll tell you why. He chooses to enter into relationship with his people and respond to them. I think God chooses to enter into relation with people and he does change his attitudes and his actions in relation to people. And I say this because I think the Bible says it, but I have to show it to you here. I'm going to use this as a case study of how to approach attributes of God, the ins and the omnis in particular because a lot of times I think the ins in the omnis comes with philosophical baggage that we need to do away with, and immutability is a good example.
Does God change? Well, let's look at the Bible. If I look at Malachi, actually, let's start earlier than that. How do I want to start? Let's talk with the Numbers 24. I'm just seeing which one I want to do. Numbers 24. Sorry, I meant 23, didn't I? Numbers 23:19. I'm looking at the NIV, Numbers 23:19. This is Balaam's famous blessing on Israel, and this is what he says. Numbers 23:19. "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind." In the Hebrew, there is Naham. Does God change his mind? What does the Bible say here? What does the Bible say?
No. Okay. Well, that's not the only verse. Let's get another verse. Let's look at Malachi and let's look at, oh, maybe something like Malachi 3:6. Malachi 3:6. Again, I'm looking at NIV, but they'll all say the same thing. What's the first phrase there? "I the Lord," what?
Do not change.
Okay, there you go. Could it be any clearer God does not change his mind, God does not change? We could go to other verses, James 1, "In God there's no change, no shadow of turning," something like that. We get other the kinds of things too that does God Naham? And it's really clear, Numbers 23:19, "God does not Naham." Does he change? No, he does not change. Can God change his mind if we pray to him and ask him to do that? That's all right, it's a trick question. Don't answer it. Let's look at the Bible. Let's look at a passage. Let's start with a fun one. Go to Jonah 3. Jonah 3, "The Lord came to Jonah a second time. Go to Nineveh, proclaim the message I give to you. Jonah obeyed and went to the city, a very large city," and Jonah 3:4, he says, "40 days and it will be toast. 40 days, Nineveh will be overturned."
So there is God's statement, "You're done, Nineveh. I'm tired of you. I'm going to overthrow you. The Ninevites believed God and they did a fast, they put on sackcloth. The king, take off all your robes, put on sackcloth, sits down in the dust, proclamation. Don't let the people or animals, herds taste anything. Be covered in sackcloth. Let them call urgently to God, and let them give up their evil ways and their violence." Who knows, God may what? 3:9, that's the word Naham, that's the word change his mind. Here it's translated relent, but it's the same Hebrew word, Naham. God may Naham and with compassion, turn his face." Turn, the Hebrew word there is shub, which is repent. "God may relent and repent from his fierce anger, so they will not perish."
What did God say? "40 days, you're done." They throw the biggest repentance ever and then 3:10, what does it say? God saw what they did and how they returned, how they repented from the evil ways and he changed his mind and did not destroy them. He softens it a bit, did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But it's not a threat, it's a proclamation. Does God change his mind? Does God Naham? No, of course he doesn't. Of course he doesn't. God is always wrathful and God is always merciful. God is always wrathful, God is always merciful. So the Ninevites are here in the wrath zone and they move to the mercy zone. God doesn't change, they change and they experience God in different ways. Let me say it one more time because you're looking at me with strange looks on your face.
God is always wrathful, God is always merciful, so the Ninevites move from his wrath zone to his mercy zone. God does not change, they change and experience a different sight of God. And what's the problem with that? It's not what the Bible says. Jonah 3:10, "And he, God, Nahamed." The Ninevites did change, to be sure. They presented and they did the biggest repentance ever, but it says God Nahamed and the word there is changed his mind or had compassion on them, just in different ways. I thought he didn't Naham, but hearing Nahams, and we could follow through some others. Genesis 6, God sees all the violence in the land and he Nahams, as translated regrets, typically, that he made man and decides to wipe him out. He Nahams. Well, Exodus 32, let's take a look at that one because that's a key passage.
Exodus 32. What I'm trying to do is not just teach on Nahaming, immutability, I'm trying to show you a method of doing things, which what view accounts for the most biblical data with the fewest difficulties? The other view is you take a clear passage and you use that clear passage to interpret the unclear passage. The clear passage is what I want the Bible to say, the unclear things are the ones that don't say what I want to say, so I reinterpret them in light of the clear passage. Now, to be fair, we all do that to some degree, but the goal is not to. So Exodus 32, remember, God's been up on the mountain with Moses and God is really happy, talking about the tabernacle and what he's going to do with that. The people down on the ground, "Come, make us gods who will come before us. This fellow Moses, he's like dead."
"Aaron says, 'Bring me some gold,' the people took off their earrings to bring it to Aaron. He makes it into a golden calf and said, 'These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.' They built an altar in front of the calf, announced tomorrow to be a festival to Yahweh. And the next day, they rose early, sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat, to drink and got up to indulge in a rave." This is a drunken sex-marred pagan ritual to honor Yahweh. Is he honored? Not exactly. He describes what's going on in verse 10. He says, "Let me alone that my anger may burn against them. I may destroy them, then I'll make you into a great nation. Let my anger burn against them that I may destroy them." Is God rightfully angry? He is, because they betrayed him in this intimate moment and he's going to kill them.
Moses prays, and we go through the details of his prayer. They're interesting but not germane right here. And in the end of verse 12, he says, "Turn from your fierce anger." That's the repent word, shub, and relent, Naham, change your mind. Do not bring disaster on your people. He says, "Repent and relent," because God says, "I'm going to kill them." In verse 14, "Then the Lord Nahamed, relented, changed his mind and did not destroy the people. Now let's come back to our previous figure. Here's God. He's always wrathful, always merciful. As the people move from wrath zone, repented, and gone to mercy zone, know the rave is going on full speed down on the ground. In fact, when Moses comes down, Josh was with him. "Man, it sounds like a war going on there. No, it's a party and it's a bad one," and Moses gets angry. No, they're in full on rave. They have not moved from wrath to mercy, it's God who Nahams.
And see, if you take the traditional doctrine of immutability, you say God cannot change. But I think this is a case where God changes his attitude. He comes from being calm, if I can overstate things a bit. They do the golden calf routine and he gets really angry, and then through the prayer of Moses and some subsequent stuff, he moves back toward less angry. His attitude changes. And then we get his 34 statement where he moonish toward these golden calf worshippers. Does God respond? And the answer is yes, he does. Does his attitude change? Yes, it does. Yes it does, yes it does. Now, I could add to those examples. A lot of Saul and 1 Samuel 15, because of his bad handle of his sin, God Nahams. "I repent. I relent that I made him king," and he withdraws the anointing, which eventually goes to David.
But then when Saul says, "Forgive me," he says, "I do not Naham," in the same chapter. What's he Nahaming of? Anointing him to be king. What is he not Nahaming? "I won't change my mind about withdrawing kingship from you. I made that decree and it's not going to change." Well, what about, come on, it says in the Bible, Numbers 23. Look at it, Gerry. Okay, let's do that. Numbers 23:19. Again, I'm trying to show you a method that is not human that he should lie. What is a lie? This information for personal wellbeing. He's not a human that he should Naham. What is he talking about here? Does God speak and not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? What he's saying here is God does not change his mind about his promise to work through the nation of Israel, and therefore Balaam can't curse them.
God has unrelentingly said, "They are my people. I cannot curse them," because God is taking them through Moab to the promised land. God in this context does not Naham because his purpose is with the people of Israel, that they'll go through Moab and up into the promised land. God does not Naham about his purpose, so that's why it doesn't change. It's not saying he never changes, it's saying in this context, on his promise he does not change and he's a faithful God who you can depend on his promise. Well, what about Malachi? Okay. Let's go to Malachi 3. Let's go to Malachi 3, and in this case, remember Malachi is talking about the evilness of the people of Israel. They're really bad guys and God has every right to hate them and destroy them.
So he comes and says in verse 2, "Who can endure in the day of his coming, who can stand when he appears, for He's like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap." I can't even say it in NIV because I've sung it in the Messiah so many times in King James. "He's a refiner. He will purify and offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be accepted to the Lord." So in verse 5, "I will come and put you on trial. I will quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows of fathers and deprive the foreigners of justice, but you do not fear me. I the Lord do not change." Verse 5 is talking about who they are. They're wicked, unjust, unfaithful people. "I the Lord do not change, therefore you wicked people will not be destroyed."
What's he saying here? He is not saying, "I never become angry." He is not ever saying, "I withhold blessing. What he is saying is, "I will not change in this promise. You, Israel, even though you're so incredibly wicked, I should bump you like Edomites, I'm going to remain and work through you from through this nation will come Messiah. But man, you guys deserve to be destroyed." So what he's saying is here, "I do not change in my promise that through this nation will come Messiah and the blessing to all nations," Abraham and Covenant back in Genesis 12. It's not saying he never changes in any sense. So I think does God change in his attitude? Exodus 32 is really unmistakably clear. Yes, his attitude changes. He becomes very angry and then becomes less angry. Does he ever change his actions? One more passage here. 2 Kings 20, "In those days Hezekiah..." Hezekiah, good guy, bad guy?
Good guy. He's the one who led one of the big reforms in Israel. "In those days, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. So Isaiah, the son of Amoz, went to him and said, 'This is what the Lord said. Put your house in order because you're going to die. You will not recover.'" What does God say to him?
You're done. Yeah. What does Hezekiah do? He turns his face to the Lord and prays to the Lord and he prays, lays it out. Verse 4, "Isaiah, before he left the middle court, the word of Lord came to him. Go back and tell us Hezekiah the rule of my people. This is what the Lord, the God of your father, David says." I have what? "Heard your prayer. I will heal you. I'll add 15 years to your life." Does God change in his actions? Could it be any clearer? Why does he do it? Because that guy prays. Now, you can say, "Well, Hezekiah didn't do very well in these next 15 years," and that would be true, but here's a biblical story that says in so many words that, "I was going to have you die. Now I'll heal you." And Isaiah, can you imagine him? He delivers the word of the Lord and before he walks 100 feet, "Oh yeah, by the way, go back and tell him I changed my mind."
See, is God unchanging? In his essence, he neither becomes more or less God. In his character, he neither becomes more or less faithful. In his purpose, when he sets him with purpose, it does not change. It may be delayed. I think he does not change in the content of his knowledge, but I think he changes in his relational knowing. So that's where I disagree with Greg Boyd. He believes the content of his knowledge, the outcome of moral decisions changes. I don't think it does. I think God has content knowledge of every action of every person in the universe for all of eternity. I think that's where he is, but his relational knowledge absolutely changes. So in Matthew 7, he says, "Depart from me for I never knew you." How can the omniscient, omnipresent God say to somebody, "Depart from me. I never knew you"? Well, it's not ontological factual knowledge or say personal presence, it's relational presence and relational knowing.
Can God change his attitude and actions? I'm going to say yes. Others say no, he doesn't. God is always the initiator and never the responder, and good and godly people say that. Friends of mine say that. God is always the initiator and never the responder because God is immutable, sovereign and all those things. But look at the biblical stories and he does change in his attitude and actions, so I put the various pieces together. How can I compare these without hammering the Bible into shape? And I come to the conclusion that he never changes his godness, never changes his character. Never changes his purpose, never changes the factual knowing, but I think he does change into relational knowing and I think he changes the attitude and actions, so that's where I come out from that. And again, good and godly people disagree. This is not we kill each other, we throw bombs, either slander each other, we write nasty blog posts or make evil Instagram posts. I guess where do you do it today?
Snapchat. Well, Twitter's kind of last year's thing. Anyway, whatever it is, you tweet evil things, that's not what we do. We should bless the people who disagree. Sit down and talk about it with the Bible open like, "Okay, help me understand where you came from. Oh, is that the way you do it? Always wrathful, I'm not sure that works." So my friend Steve Walker suggested an exercise we should practice in church regularly. In congregation, he said, "Look at the guy next to you, especially one you don't like. Smile and say, 'I disagree. Let's talk about it.'" I think that's a really good exercise. Look at somebody you disagree with and say with a genuine smile, not that Cheshire cat, I got you know, "I disagree. Can we talk about it?" That's the attitude I want among Bible believing Christians, and let's do it with our Bibles open. So that's the attitude I want. Questions?
Do you think it's fair to say then that if God does not change in his relational knowledge-
I think he does change in his relational knowledge.
... as I'm saying, it seems to me that God then becomes a liar of gargantuan proportions because of his constant commitment to answer our prayers. That may not be how you would word it, but it really brings up a serious problem if God can't answer prayers. Is that a fair estimation?
Well, the thing to do is go to somebody who believes that and say, "How do you put that together?" And the common answer is God ordains the means as well as the ends, so that ordained the prayer, "Help, Lord," so he can then do what he always intended to do and he's an initiator to every step. I don't think that works.
It's not what the text says.
It's not what the text says. It says, "And God relented. Hezekiah, I have heard your prayers." He didn't say, "I ordained your prayer," or something like that. It would say a lot more about sovereignty and freedom, but that's well said. I think it makes God a liar. It really does, because he says in the text.
So it sounds like the best way to grow in this is just to amass significant familiarity with the text.
Are there other tools or besides just doing that, are there other things that are helpful in this process?
Yep. Sit down with people you disagree with and understand what they're saying. What text you appeal to, how do you understand disputed texts? Understand. And the trick is, as I said in the early lesson, is you've got to put together my critique. "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard," or something like that, or my, "Yeah, but. Oh gee, really?" The eye roll or just, "Yeah, but." Keep the, "Yeah, but," stuck in your pocket and then ask, "Can you say more?" Because my goal is to go firsthand for understanding, and I discover gosh, we agree on a lot, but we really disagree on this. But if I understand why you do it, I don't go there. You're a godly guy, I'll affirm that, but I think you're wrong." That smile, "I think we disagree. Could we talk about it?" But that's the key, is go to people and talk to them. People, not do any Instagram or Twitter wars-