Systematic Theology I - Lesson 18

Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 1)

Discussion of those attributes of God's character that he shares (to some degee) with his creation, beginning with his intellectual attributes (omniscience).

Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology I
Lesson 18
Watching Now
Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 1)

Doctrine of God

Part 8

V. Attributes of God (part 5)

A. Methodology and the Doctrine of God

B. Incommunicable Attributes


C. Communicable Attributes

1. Intellectual Attributes

a. Omniscience

  • An introduction to theology, answering the questions of what is EST (Evangelical Systematic Theology), why study EST, and how it relates to other theological disciplines.

  • Introductory issues of how to do EST and the criteria for assessing theological formulations.

  • Issues of cultural Christianity, and the evangelical position of "contextualized normativity."

  • Begins with a discussion of the background to the discussion (Pelagius, Augustine, Council of Carthage, and semi-Pelagianism), and then a discussion of Luther, Calvin, Arminius, the Synod of Dort and the Five Points of Calvinism.

  • Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism, and their views of Israel and the church

  • A discussion of these three positions and the key figures in each (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, von Harnack; Barth, Brunner, Niebuhr; Carnell, Henry, Graham)

  • The beginning discussion of revelation and the specifics of General Revelation

  • A continuation of the discussion of revelation with an emphasis on Special Revelation, moving into the topic of Inspiration (definition and key passages).

  • A survey of the recent debate, defining inerrancy (including the relationship of hermeneutics and inerrancy), and its relationship to authority.

  • The definition of illumination, why it is necessary, and how we come to know truth. The critceria for canonicity is then discussed and why the canon is now closed (i.e., why no more books would be accepted into the Bible).

  • Why there is a need to know God, and "theism" (arguments as to whether there is a God or not).

  • Can God be known? The Doctrine of the Trinity (Scriptural basis; historical background; Monarchian heresies)

  • Continuation of the discussion of the Trinity and the church's rejection of Monarchianism

  • Beginning of the discussion of the attributes of God's character, and how the discussion is organized.

  • The related doctrines of God's self-sufficiency and his love. (The lecture begins in the middle of a sentence but not much content is missing. Point V., subpoints 1 and 2 were covered in lecture 14. See Outline tab.)

  • God's incommunicable attributes are those that he does not share with us: self-existence; self-sufficiency; infinity; omnipresence; eternity

  • Completes the discussion of God's incommunicable attributes by discussing immutability, the doctrine that God does not change.

  • Discussion of those attributes of God's character that he shares (to some degee) with his creation, beginning with his intellectual attributes (omniscience).

  • A continuing discussion of God communicable attributes, both intellectual (Omnisapience; truth) and moral (goodness; love).

  • Continuation of the discussion of God's communicable moral attributes (love, grace, mercy; holiness, righteousness, justice) and the attributes of God's rulership (freedom; omnipotence).

  • The Scriptural teaching and issues related to this central question

  • Hyper-Calvinism, Process Theology, Arminianism, and Calvinism

  • Concluding discussion on Calvinism

  • An introduction to the doctrine of humanity and the doctrine of humanity's origin (Adam and Eve)

  • Theories on the structure of the human soul (Monism, Dichotomy, Trichotomy) and the transmission of the soul (Creationism, Traducianism).

  • Sin is one of the most foundational and significant topics in Scripture. The doctrines of salvation and sanctification are meaningless without an accurate understanding of sin. The Old Testament teaches both the personal and corporate aspects of sin. New Testament teachings include the essence of sin and total depravity.

  • The facets of the Fall, theories of Original Sin, and God's triumph over sin

What value is there to attempt to know the unknowable or to try to understand someone that, by their own description, is beyond our understanding?

Even though we cannot know everything there is to know about God, there are some things you can know because he has revealed them to you. You can develop a systematic theology as you contemplate what you experience in nature, what you can read in the Bible and what you can know from history. This will give you insights into who God is, how you can have a relationship with him, and how you will live your life differently. Dr. Ware begins by giving you a systematic theology definition and explains systematic theology teachings and concepts that you will find in systematic theology books. He also helps you to learn both the inductive and deductive approaches in assessing various criteria so you can determine for yourself the validity of any theological position.

Some of the first lectures in Dr. Ware’s Systematic Theology I give you the core theological positions of major movements like Calvinism, Arminianism, Covenant, Liberalism and Neo Orthodoxy and help you compare and contrast their different perspectives. Also, since the Bible is the primary source for determining your systematic theology, Dr. Ware defines and explains key terms like inspiration, revelation, inerrancy, illumination and canonicity. God’s existence and attributes make up a major part of this class. The final lectures in Systematic Theology I focus on what the Bible teaches us about humans and sin.

The study of systematic theology is a mixture of science, art and faith. Join Dr. Ware as he leads you in understanding the core teachings of Scripture in a way that help you articulate your systematic theology, deepen your relationship with God and live out your life as a changed person.

This is the first of a two semester class on systematic theology. We recommend the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem as a companion book for this class. Dr. Grudem also wrote an abridged version entitled Bible Doctrines that includes discussion questions that are helpful for using in a small group/classroom situation. 

Dr. Bruce Ware

Systematic Theology I


Attributes of God: Communicable (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript


V. Attributes of God

    A. Methodology and the Doctrine of God

    B. Incommunicable Attributes

C. Communicable Attributes

This term refers to attributes that are true of God, but are also true in some respect or in some finite measure of at least a portion of his creation. That could include angels. For example, holy, for the most part, refers to human beings, created in the image of God, and they possess these attributes in some measure, but God possesses them infinitely.

I am going to divide this discussion into three broad areas of communicable attributes. They are not meant to be air-tight categories. In fact, they bleed all over each other. It is like a screen that separates them, not a brick wall. In other words, these are the prevailing emphasis for these attributes. Many of the attributes could be placed in any of the three categories, though they seem to be predominately in one or the other. The three that we will look at are: Intellectual Attributes, Moral Attributes and Attributes of God's Rulership. Understand that these are categories helpful in discussing them, but realize that many of these attributes really fit in more than one category.

1. Intellectual Attributes

These ones have to do fundamentally with God's mind, his knowledge, and his grasp and use of that knowledge. There are three to look at.

a. Omniscience 

A very simple definition that can be given for omniscience is that God knows all that is knowable, or God knows all that can be known. What can be known? Theologians through history have argued that what can be known is everything possible and actual. So God knows not only everything about the actual world that exists like how many people are meeting here for a class this day. He also knows the possible world, in which 3 of you are here or 200 or something like that. So he knows all logical possibilities, and he knows all actualities. Also theologians have wanted to say that what is knowable is everything past, present and future. God, in fact, knows everything of what has happened in the past from the perspective of any particular point in time; for anything that precedes that point in time God knows everything. He knows everything about the present at any point in time that you give, that present moment. And he knows everything future, including the future from this moment and all that will occur in the future. So God knows everything actual and possible, everything past, present, and future.

Actual and possible, God knows the hairs of our head (Matt 10:30). Jesus gives this as an example of how detailed God's knowledge is. How many of you know how many hairs are on your head? No one knows that, but God knows that; isn't that an astonishing thing, that even before and after your shower he knows it both ways. Before and after 40 years old, he knows it both ways.

His knowledge is meticulous. Psalm 139 gives us some amazing statements of God's knowledge of what is actual. The Psalm begins extolling the presence of God and his knowledge of all.

Ps 139:1 For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O Lord, You have searched me and known me. Ps 139:2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you understand my thought from afar. Ps 139:3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

This is an illustration; he is not giving a general theoretical principle that God knows everything actual, but he is applying it to a very concrete situation, namely his life. Each one of our lives is known intimately by God. He knows every detail of it.

Ps 139:4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it all.

This really gets into knowledge of the future as well. He knows words you are going to speak as well as the ones you have spoken. He knows everything you have done, everything about your life, and everything that is coming as well.

He knows everything possible. There are some passages of Scripture that indicate what some theologians have referred to a "middle knowledge." It clearly indicates what possibly could have been that didn't in fact happen. For example, this happens in Matthew 11, where Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for rejecting him.

Matt 11:21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Matt 11:22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. Matt 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

God knows what would have been the case that is not the case. He knows what is possible that is different from what is actual. This verse illustrates not only God's knowledge of something possible, but it indicates knowledge of what would have been. Jesus says if this would have been the case, Sodom would be here today; Tyre and Sidon would have repented if it weren't for that.

Another example of this middle knowledge, this kind of possible knowledge is in 1 Corinthians 2:7,8.

1 Cor 2:7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 1 Cor 2:8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;

Here you have again the knowledge of what would have been the case. In this case, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory had they known this.

We have these instances of God's knowledge of what would have been. This is called by a number of theologians "Middle Knowledge". It was actually developed by a Jesuit theologian by the name of Luis de Molina in the Reformation period. Molina found this to a very promising category of knowledge. It is Middle knowledge. What is it middle between? It is middle between God's knowledge before he creates the world of all possibilities and all logically necessary truths. God has this knowledge of every possible world. A possible world is a set of logically consistent states of affairs that would be put together that may be very different from this world. There is a possible world in which unicorns roam freely through the earth. There is a possible world in which whales have feet and they walk upon the shore. There are all kinds of possibles, so God knows all these possibilities. He knows the necessary state of affairs; it is necessary that two plus two equal four, two being what it is, four being what it is, plus being what it is, and equal being what it is. Two plus two equals four; it can't be otherwise. A triangle has three sides. God knows all of those things. This is God's necessary knowledge. When God chooses to create the world, when he says this is the world that is going to be, then this is God's knowledge of the actual world. It is actual knowledge, necessary knowledge, knowledge of the actual world. What is in the middle? This middle knowledge is knowledge of what the world would be if circumstances were different. It is not just bare possibilities, for example Sodom continuing forever. That is a possibility, but God knows had this revelation been given to Sodom it would stand until today. God knows that had this revelation been given to the rulers in Israel, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. So it is not just a bare possibility; it is a possibility that would have become actualized if these circumstances were different. So God has both the knowledge of necessary truths of all possibilities; he has knowledge of the actual world, and he has middle knowledge in that sense.

I actually incorporate this notion of middle knowledge in my own understanding of sovereignty and freedom and how all this works. I will come back to middle knowledge and explain to you a use of it as I see it, as a Calvinist. Most Calvinists don't do much of anything with middle knowledge; they acknowledge that it is taught in the Bible; they acknowledge that it is a category from these passages; they would have done this. So God knows what would have been the case but very little use is made of middle knowledge by Calvinists. I have come to a position that finds a very significant use for middle knowledge.

What I don't hold is the kind of middle knowledge that is normally held when they talk about it. When they say someone is a Molinist or an advocate of middle knowledge, what they normally mean is that this is a version of Arminianism. Molinism is a version of Arminianism in which libertarian freedom is upheld. Libertarian freedom is the freedom of choosing one or another option, all things being just what they are. All things being just what they are, you can choose this or that. All things being just what they are you can choose to do A or B or A or not A. This is libertarian freedom. This is the kind of freedom that is advocated in the Arminian view. It sounds to most people upon hearing it, altogether sensible. It is my judgment that, on analysis, this view is unworkable. Libertarian freedom is sometimes called Contra Causal Freedom. This name is actually more helpful. Contra Causal means that when you make a decision or perform an action, you cause one thing to be the case, and you could have caused contrary to that. You choose chocolate chip ice cream at the Baskin Robins 31 flavors counter; you could have chosen peppermint. That is contra causal freedom, you caused the selection of chocolate chip; you could have caused contrary to that the selection of peppermint or vanilla or any number of other possibilities. So Contra Causal Freedom is what this is about. My problem with Molinism is in its strict sense, the Molinist view as held by Arminians like William Lane Craig. He is a very bright gifted man; he is just brilliant, and he has written a lot on this and other related subjects. I differ with him on this point, and there are other Arminians out there. But for the most part Arminians as a category of theologians and persons who hold that view have not gone this route of holding to the Molinist position.

What is wrong with Bill Craig's Molinist view as it relates to this question of middle knowledge? This is Bill Craig's claim: That when God was envisioning what the world will be, he doesn't have actual knowledge of the world yet because he hasn't created the world yet. But he has middle knowledge; he knows, so claims Craig, what any creature would do in particular kinds of circumstances. So lets take Bill as an example; he knows what Bill would do in this particular circumstance, he knows that in this particular circumstance Bill upon hearing the gospel will say, "phooey, no way, that is ridiculous." He knows in another particular circumstance what Bill would do upon hearing the gospel; in this one he will think about it a bit. In another circumstance he knows Bill will receive the gospel and be saved. So God knows before creating the world what Bill would do here, here, and here and a lot more possibilities. So God creates the world that he knows he will get the most of what he is wanting as free creatures make their choices. They could have chosen otherwise, contra causal, and yet he knows that they will make this choice if in fact he makes this world because, by middle knowledge, he knows what they would have done as opposed to what they would do over here. So God doesn't control what free creatures do. Bill freely chooses to accept Christ in this world, and he would have freely chosen to reject Christ over here. In both cases, his action is free in the libertarian sense of freedom. It is just that God knows what Bill would do in any of these, and he picks the world in which he gets the most of what he wants using people's free responses.

This is a real problem. One of the problems with this middle knowledge view is that it doesn't seem to match very well with the real world because Arminians also hold the notion that God wants everybody saved. Arminians don't hold the view that God purposely elects some to be saved from the outset. They rather hold the view, as Arminians generally do, that God's wants everyone saved. If God wanted everyone saved, isn't there a possible world out there where maybe not everyone would come but a whole lot more than we've seen. So this is one of the problems that the view faces; does it make sense of the world as we see it. It seems to be faulty there.

What is the difference between God picking the world in which he knows what free creatures will do and God just determining what happened in a world? The difference for Bill Craig, for people like him, is huge. The difference is that these people do what they do freely; they are not constrained. I really do believe that Bill, according to this scheme, does act according to his libertarian freedom and choose what he chooses. Bill could still say no; he could, but God knows what he would do. The fact of the matter is Bill is going to make one choice or another; it is just that God knows what that choice is going to be. The analogy would be to look back at what you chose for breakfast. I chose a bowl of cereal. When I look back on that, could I have chosen differently? As a matter of fact, I chose one thing; I made a choice. Is the fact that that is fixed make it any less true that I could have chosen differently? My problem with Molinism is not this one. I think, in my own judgment on this, they can account for libertarian freedom in a world in which God has middle knowledge in that sense.

Open Theists, on the other hand, charge that if God knows what free creatures will do then their actions cannot be genuinely free. So they would agree with this line of argument that these two things are mutually exclusive: libertarian freedom and God's certain knowledge (that is actually a redundancy; you don't need certain in there; God's knowledge is always certain). What is contradictory is genuine free choice and God's knowing of what creatures will choose. Open Theist claim that is a contradiction. If want to get a sense of what drives Open Theists this is one of their main reasons. Namely, if you really do value to libertarian freedom, you will give up exhaustive, definite foreknowledge. You cannot have exhaustive definite foreknowledge and say creatures could do one or another. I don't agree with that argument, and I can tell you why later.

Let me get back to what I think is the problem with Molinism and why I don't think it works. It is namely this, before God creates the world the claim is that God can know what a free creature will do. My question is, how does God know what a free creature would do if all things being just what they are, with libertarian freedom, a creature can choose otherwise. So how does it work to say God can control the circumstance? He can make the circumstances; he can do A, B or C; he can put Bill in different situations, but how can he know by putting Bill in different situations what Bill will do? Because in any of those situations, the situations don't dictate what the action is going to be, what the personís choice will be. All things being just what they are, he could choose differently. So by knowing the situation in which Bill might exist, how would God know what his choices would be in those situations? It strikes me as totally groundless. The way a Calvinist knows what Bill would do is that there is a direct connection between the circumstances and the choice so that a person chooses what he or she most wants in that circumstance given all the factors that relate. There is a causal connection between the choice and all the factors that go in to making up that choice. But for the libertarian that is not the case.

Here is why I think libertarian freedom falters and ultimately fails as a model of freedom. Libertarian freedom is reduced to a kind of arbitrary or capricious choice for decision making. It can't ultimately avoid arbitrariness or caprice in choosing. If everything is just the same, freeze the situation right there and look at all of the factors that are relevant when a particular choice is made. Let's take the choice of pulling the trigger, just to make it sort of meaty. This is a significant moral choice; do I murder the person or not? So in libertarian freedom you could choose to pull the trigger or not. All of the factors are there when the person chooses to pull the trigger. If you ask the question, why did the person pull the trigger? Every answer you give will be the identical answer for why if instead the person had chosen not to pull the trigger. Because libertarian freedom means everything being just what it is, you could have chosen this or that. The ìthis or that,î in this case, is to pull the trigger or not. This or that. There is nothing different in what leads up to and is relevant right at the moment of the choice. At that moment whichever one you do all of those things acting are identical. Why did you do it? You give reasons, but any reason or set of reasons you give would be identical reason to the reasons for why you would choose its opposite. How then is this a reason or set of reasons for why you did this and not that. That is exactly the point. There can be no reason or set of reasons for why you do this and not that because every reason or set of reasons you give is always the same for whether it is this or that. So what is the ultimate explanation for why a choice is made? Any decision, every action is absolutely arbitrary. There are never any choice specific reasons. There are reasons, but there are never any choice specific reasons. There are always reasons which would be just as true if the person had chosen just the opposite of what he did. So I find libertarian freedom as a model of freedom unworkable. It does not account for human behavior, human actions. Arminians who face this problem appeal to the point that the agent is choosing. They call it agent causation. Some people in the libertarian literature even speak of decisions made ''ex nihilo'', out of nothing. I just stagger when I read that kind of language. Agent causation only backs it one step further; why does the agent choose that? Any reason that you give for why the agent made that choice would be the identical reason or set of reasons for why the agent might have chosen its opposite. So it can't work. Libertarian Freedom in my judgment falters; it does not account for human freedom.

As it relates to Molinism in the traditional view, it simply cannot account for how God can know what a free creature would do by knowing the circumstances in which that free creature will act. Knowing the circumstances means only that God can know a certain range of possibilities; he knows he can't fly out the window because of the nature he has. But he can't know the particular choice because all things being just what they are, the man may choose differently. I do think that middle knowledge is a category that is biblical. I think it has to be incorporated differently than in the Molinist proposal that is used in Arminianism. We will talk about this in relation to sovereignty, freedom and providence.

The Calvinist understanding is called Compatibilist Freedom. These two are the options out there so far as I know. I don't know of a third possibility in terms of understanding freedom. The compatibilist notion succeeds at a fundamental level at explaining action in way that libertarian freedom fails. And yet it has it own intellectual difficulties as well. The Compatibilist Freedom says two things are compatible; determinism and freedom are compatible. Libertarians say this is nonsense. If it is determined it can't be free. The question is, what definition of freedom? The only reason a libertarian says that compatibilist freedom is not freedom is because they insist that the only kind of freedom is Libertarian Freedom. It can't be determined; you have to be able to do this or that. Compatibilist Freedom holds that determinism and freedom are compatible, so when a certain set of factors comes to bear, they comprise a sufficient reason for why you make the choice that you do. So the choice that you end up making actually is a choice that arises out those factors such that given those factors you could not have chosen differently.

The factors are complex and multitudinous, and sometimes it just takes one little change to make a difference in terms of what you would do or might not do. For example you are going to go out, and you want to get a babysitter for the kids. So you are looking down the list, and sometimes just one thing can influence your choice; I don't like the way that babysitter last time talked to one our kids; she didn't pick up the toys. Why that person? Because given the set of relevant factors, that gave you a prevailing disposition to say no to that one and yes to another.

The way this works in relation to the whole question of divine sovereignty and human freedom we will come to when we come to that part of the course. Obviously, God's will or God's decree becomes part of the package of relevant factors by which we make our decisions, and we are free when we do what we most want to do.

The Open Theists proposal, which is relatively new, really hinges on its commitment to the idea that God must not have exhaustive knowledge of the future. That is, he must not have knowledge of everything that free creatures will choose and do in the future. Why? Because if he knew it, they couldn't be free. If God knows that tonight you are going to choose pizza for dinner, and God has known that from eternity, are you free to have a hamburger? Open Theists would say no, because God's knowledge is infallible; it can't be wrong. You can go through any mental gymnastics you want to, but you are going to choose pizza. They argue that there isn't freedom. I don't think they are right about that; I disagree with that critique. The reason I do so is because knowledge of something doesn't cause it to be. You know that you chose cereal for breakfast (or whatever it is that you had). The knowledge of that doesn't cause that to be. God can know what you will do; he doesn't cause you to do that. So because God's knowledge is not causative in the Arminian understanding of it, then it doesn't determine it. He just knows it in advance in the way that we know things in the past. We know with fixed certainly things that we have chosen and done in the past. I know I had cereal this morning for breakfast with a banana sliced on that; I know that. Does my knowledge of that render that certain? Yes. Does it render it determined? No. So God's knowledge of the future renders that knowledge certain, but it doesn't render it determined.

Open Theists disagree with Arminianism (and my sympathy with them on this point) that God can know the future and yet people be free; they disagree with that. They argue that if God knows it then it can't be free. They also try to give biblical support for their view. For example in Genesis 22, this is one of their favorite texts. They have a number, my book ''God's Lesser Glory'' is an attempt to interact with them at some length on their main passages, their main arguments, and to try to demonstrate in my judgment where their arguments are wrong. I just grieve at the thought that this view could grow in evangelicalism and take over in our churches because it is so belittling to God; that is my main concern. My second concern is almost as big and that is it is so harmful to Christian faith and hope because all of a sudden now you and I put ourselves in the hands of a "god" who says, "Shucks, I was really trying my best when I lead you this way; I honestly thought that this was going to work out differently than it did, and I am just so sorry." Are you going to trust God if this is a God who makes mistakes, who looks back on his own past actions and says, "Knowing this I think I would have done it differently"? This is God they are talking about. This is so defaming of God. How dare they? I think of Isaiah in which such gods are the idols who can't predict the future, can't say what is going to happen, can't say once it happened, ìSee I told this is going to happen,î and so prove that they are "gods." And what does God say of them? They are detestable.

One their proof texts is Genesis 22 when Abraham takes his son Isaac to the Mountain (Mount Moriah, as we know Jerusalem it became) and was told to sacrifice his son. He was going to follow God's instructions to do so; he had every intention to do it.

Gen 22:10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. Gen 22:11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Gen 22:12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."

"For now I know" they make the point, doesn't this indicate that God learned something before. He didn't know whether Abraham would do this or not. Hence the statement, "now I know" implicitly what I didn't know. If you look at Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 it is very clear that God knows. Notice what the statement is in Genesis 22:12b. ìFor now I know that you fear God.î Did God not know previously that Abraham feared God? Notice that it doesn't say, ìfor now I know that you would destroy your son.î It says, "For now I know that you fear God." Romans 4 and Hebrews 11 both extol the faith of Abraham.

Rom 4:19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; Rom 4:20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, Rom 4:21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, he was able also to perform.

Is that fear of God or what? Did God know that about Abraham. In Hebrews 11 it talks about Genesis 22.

Heb 11:19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

Gen 22:5 Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you."

So to say God doesn't know until that moment that Abraham believed God doesn't work.

Another interesting point on this is in a few chapters earlier; look back to Genesis 18. God visited Abraham in three people. One of them must have been a theophany who likely left, and then the other two angels went to Sodom and warned Lot to leave. Then the destruction came upon Sodom. The three are there and the Lord speaks.

Gen 18:17 The Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?"

God decides that he is not going to hide it from, him but he going to tell him what he is about to do.

Gen 18:20 And the Lord said, "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. Gen 18:21 I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to me; and if not, I will know."

If you applied the same openist hermeneutic here as is done in Genesis 22, what do you have to conclude about God? What doesn't God know in Genesis 18? What you have to deny of God is omnipresence; he has to go there to find out knowledge of the present and knowledge of the future. The question would be, have we got the right hermeneutic here in interpreting this?

The most forceful evidence for God's comprehensive knowledge of the future comes from Isaiah. Over and over again, in about 8 places in Isaiah from 40-48, the statement is made that God is God because he declares the future. We can know that he is God because he declares the future. For example in Isaiah 41:21-23.

Is 41:21 "Present your case," the Lord says. "Bring forward your strong arguments," The King of Jacob says. Is 41:22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; Is 41:23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.

Here is the test of deity. Declare the future; tell us what is going to happen.

Is 46:8 "Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Is 46:9 "Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, Is 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure'; Is 46:11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.

Greg Boyd likes to say of this passage that all it indicates is that God can declare and determine what he will do. The two problems with that is: 1) How comprehensive is the statement, "Declaring the end from the beginning"? It isn't a statement of specific items he will do, but this is a sweeping statement which matches a number of the statements made in this section of Isaiah. These are sweeping claims: declaring the end from the beginning. 2) The other problem with it is God is declaring what will take place through Cyrus who is a free agent. He is declaring his rise to power, his ascendancy to the throne, the kingdoms he will conquer and on and on. So you ask the question, "Does God know what a free creature will do?" It sure looks like he knows it in the case of Cyrus.

Let me show you one more example that I have yet to hear an answer from Open Theists. I have presented it in every venue that I have had opportunity and nobody ever talks about this from the side of an Open Theist. Daniel 11. The book of Daniel as a whole is remarkable, but just to get a feel for what God knows of the future look at what is stated here.

Dan 11:1 In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him. Dan 11:2a And now I will tell you the truth.

Notice the specifics. The is exactly why liberals date the book of Daniel late. How could anyone know this, they say. God can.

Dan 11:2 And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece.

In Daniel 11:2 marvel at how much God claims to know about a future that hasn't happened yet, a future that involved free agents. Three kings, not two, not eight, not one, not seventeen, but three. Then there will be a fourth who will have more riches. How did he know that? Imagine what God must know of the future to know all of those things that will be true. What affects a persons' riches? These things are all tied together. What affects if a king is there to reign or not?

Dan 11:3 And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases. Dan 11:4a But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass,

Here is this other king, and he will have this great kingdom, and then we are going to have it divided into north, south, east and west.

Dan 11:4b though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.

As we figure it out, we know that these were four generals that took it over; that is what happened historically; they weren't his own children. It is supposed to be children that become heirs of the throne, but it wasn't in this case. So God knows that.

Dan 11:4c nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.

And keep reading; it is just incredible. This one chapter alone outlines hundreds of years of future history and what will take place. Then ask, "Does God know the future?" He certainly does in great specificity, and he knows of the future actions and choices of human beings. They have never commented on this passage. They don't say anything in their responses. What can they say? They can either say all of these things are determined by God so none of them happen by free agency, or it is written late (a liberal view on the dating of Daniel; it is all written after the fact, making it look as though it were written before the fact). They are not going to hold that, probably, because they are trying to be evangelical. So they want to hold to an early date of Daniel, not a late. The answer is you can't say anything. There is no answer to this problem from the openist folks.

Question from the class was inaudible.

The Answer: Again they have to resort to either these things being controlled by God; they are things that happened by his control, or (this is what really gets troubling) they try to take as much of prophecy as possible and put it in the category of "conditional." That is, God said it would be this way, but when things don't work out the way he intended, it may be different. There are some examples of conditional prophecy in Scripture.

Another inaudible comment from a student.

Dr Ware's response: The biblical writers are constantly pointing to this was that and this fulfilled that, and it doesn't have this look of God wiping his brow saying, "That one worked out, conditional or probabilistic; I am hoping that it will go the way that it will." Think of Jesus' prediction of Peter's three denials. Just go through the data, and you will realize how much there is to support exhaustive definite foreknowledge and how paltry the argument is.

So why the argument from Open Theists? With Libertarian Freedom you get God off the hook for the problem of evil (which doesn't succeed, by the way). God is on the hook, in some ways, in more culpable ways, in Open Theism than in classic Arminianism. God becomes a fool in Open Theism, to create a world in which he doesn't know how it might end up. He doesn't know at this moment what we might do with nuclear bombs or biological warfare. He knows the possibilities but he doesn't know. He is not in control. He is a fool to create a world that could end up with such horrid devastation to the masses of humanity, and he doesn't know now that it might not happen. In some ways it makes him more culpable because he doesn't know the end, Open Theists can't say what Arminians say of God. Namely, he knows the ends from the beginning; he knows the end will work out right. Open Theists cannot say that. They try to, but they can't.

Blessings on you.