Tuesday, July 31, 2007

God repents

John Frye considers those uncomfortable OT accounts where God changes his mind:
At least 36 times in the Old Testament we read that God changed his mind, or relented or repented. These 36 occurrences cause severe mind cramps in many people. They get knotted up because they reason like this: God is perfect. Perfect can't change. If perfect changes for the better, then it wasn't perfect to begin with. Yikes! We can't start with an imperfect God. Continuing, if perfect changes, then it must be only for the worse. Yikes again! We can't end with an imperfect God. Therefore, the Bible is dead wrong 36 times when it flat out tells us that God changed his mind.

The insider, wise ones among us help out here. What we have 36 times, they propose, is an anthropomorphism. This is a long, catchy word for "These 36 verses don't fit our theology." The mantra is: "God can't change! God can't change!" God is the great unblinking unfeeling stare. We're told that God condescends to our childish state ("baby steps") and merely reports that God seems to be like us--we can change our minds after all--but, really, God is not like us. We can do something that God can't do. Doesn't that make you feel really special? You can change your mind, but God can't change his. What a mighty God we serve!
I encourage you to read the whole article; John's conclusion is worth the effort.


Blogger Dylan said...

I'm surprised you linked to this one. Not up to typical par for your metablog. Sorry.

11:08 AM, July 31, 2007  
Blogger Dr Fin said...

Frye's sarcasm, sense of superiority, and condescension leave me a bit cold. There are, of course, other explanations for these passages - he presents the fallacy of the excluded middle to make his point - but I don't know that Frye would allow his own mind to be changed.

Whether he intends it or not, this kind of derisive writing and abiblical theology can easily be the sugar-coating on the bitter pill of open theism.

No thank you, Dr Frye: I'll let the word of God speak for itself and, if I cannot resolve some difficulties, I'll try to reign in my narcissism and arrogance. I'll let God be true, though every man a liar - or incapable of understanding He who is beyond complete comprehension.

< /rant >

8:32 AM, August 01, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Well, I did kind of like it. I'm not sure which Dylan is commenting (no profile available), but I respect Mike's judgment.

In a way I'm glad, though, that you both consider this blog a source of high-quality links. I'll try not to disappoint in the future.

3:29 PM, August 01, 2007  
Blogger Dylan said...

For clarification, I'm the "Dylan" above and I'm a WI pastor for clarification sake. (Surely the number of WI pastors named Dylan has got to be slim, especially if they also must frequent here.)

I should have given more explanation as to why I didn't care for this particular link. Basically, I'm along the lines of what Dr. Mike has said...

I felt that Frye wrote from an arrogant sort of perspective that belittled the positions that he did not take.

I also often grow tired with people that always seek to be on middle ground as though the middle were necessarily the right place to be. There are many things in life, theology being one of them, that can be seen as a sort of spectrum. Very often, the ends of the spectrum are erroneous. This is not however always the case. And, often people only examine a portion of the spectrum and the correct position may be at the "end" of the portion being examined.

Also, Frye makes logical errors in his writing. I'm not a trained logistics person so I don't know the names for the errors...

For example, to affirm that God cannot change his mind (even if that affirmation is narrowly and carefully defined) does not necessarily require the conclusion that "the Bible is dead wrong 36 times..." Frye is incorrectly giving the potential options.

Reading Frye's piece left me with the impression I often get from young theologians/bloggers/emergent types--like the traditional "freshman" who thinks they know it all. That is not to say that Frye is young, emergent, etc.--I didn't even check--just that I had the same impression.

Summary: Frye poorly used/created categories and logically necessary options. He came across as arrogant. And he affirms a middle ground that I'm not clear from his writing is biblically correct or even philosophically necessary. It was a sort of "bully" tactic where the reader has to agree or feel marginalized.

1:20 PM, August 02, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Well, Dylan, you and Mike have certainly given me something to think about. I thought I had a pretty strong arrogance detector, but I interpreted John's words as more playful than derisive. Of course, I'm more likely to arrive at that conclusion when I basically agree with John's position. Thanks for sharing and explaining your thoughts; they're always welcome here.

7:15 PM, August 05, 2007  
Blogger John Frye said...

I appreciate you quoting and linking the post about Jonah 3 and his "open theism." I see that Dylan and Dr. Mike responded with the typical defensiveness of classical deteminists. Neither dealt with the biblical text(s). One deferred to logic--the excluded middle--and the other deferred to the grand incomprehensibleness of God. I have a good pastor friend who has a PhD in logic and philosopy and who is a trained theologian as well. He has walked me through the logical fallacies of the *theory* of eternal decrees. Those fallacies are undeniable.

You correctly detected humor and playfulness in my Jonah posts. Opponents almost always detect arrogance. So sad.

1:44 PM, August 08, 2007  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for the clarification, John. And thanks, Dylan and Mike, for sharing your thoughts. We may not always agree on the specifics of our doctrine, but I hope TS is a place where we can discuss these kinds of issues with respect and kindness as brothers and sisters in Christ. Peace.

3:52 PM, August 08, 2007  

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