22 July 2009

Open Theism and 1 Peter 1:20

I am intrigued by the arguments of Open Theism. This doesn't make me an Open Theist; I am Arminian in my theology, but not Open Theist. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's the gist of Open Theism: God created everything, he gave people free will, he desires genuine relationships with his creatures (code for "we think that God predestining his relationships is not genuine"), so he has chosen to limit himself with regard to certain things, included in which is a comprehensive knowledge of the future choices of free-will creatures. In other words, even God does not know exactly what you or I will choose with regard to many of the choices we make in life. Because he knows the past and present perfectly, though, he can anticipate with a great deal of accuracy, but he cannot know that future perfectly until it happens.

One of Open Theism's most interesting proponents is Gregory Boyd. Known for writing provocative books about a variety of Christian issues (The Myth of a Christian Nation, God of the Possible, Satan and the Problem of Evil to name a few), Boyd's website is the most thorough I've seen when it comes to teaching Open Theism and answering objections. Some of Boyd's explanations are pretty good (because they reveal the close similarity between Open Theism and Arminianism, from which OT came).

Some of his explanations, however, I find unconvincing. Take, for example, his explanation of 1 Peter 1:20:

“[Christ] was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for our sake. Through him you have come to trust in God…” This passage reveals that God created the world with Jesus Christ in mind (cf. Col. 1:15–17). The divine goal was (and is) to acquire a people who freely participate in and reflect the love of the triune God, and the plan to attain this goal was by having people trust in God through Christ. Though it is sometimes cited as evidence in support of the classical view of foreknowledge, this verse actually has nothing to say on the subject.

What I find unconvincing is Boyd's lack of attention to Greek grammar. For those of you who care, here is the transliterated Greek of 1 Peter 1:19-20 (it's important to include v. 19, as we will see):1 Peter 1:19-20: alla timio haimati hos amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou, proegnosmenou men apo kataboles kosmou phanerothentos de ep' eschatou ton chronon di' humas

The key phrase here is hos amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou, proegnosmenou, which I translate as "as of the spotless lamb without blemish, Christ, having been foreknown. . . ." This phrase describes the blood with which we have been redeemed. I believe that the verb proegnosmenou ("having been foreknown," a perfect passive participle, genitive masculine singular) modifies the entire genitive phrase amnou amomou kai aspilou Christou ("of the spotless lamb without blemish, Christ." What God foreknew ("destined" is a poor translation) was not only Christ, but Christ the spotless lamb without blemish, an identity that requires a significant amount of foreknowledge (that there would be an incarnation among the Jews, that the blood of lambs would be used under the law to atone for sins, that Christ would be killed, that he would be killed in such a way as to make the metaphor of lamb meaningful, that he would die in a period of history in which terms like lamb, redeem, and blood made sense in the same sentence).

Remember, all of this was foreknown "before the foundation of the world," which means before Genesis 1:1, before God said, let there be light, before there was anything else in existence apart from God. How did God know Jesus would die? How did God know how Jesus would die? These are questions for which Open Theism has no sufficient answers.


Anonymous said...

I always wanted to know why a person would be Arminian. I guess the first thing I would ask is why the Holy Spirit would seal something just to unseal it? What sins exactly make you lose your salvation. God is all knowing and he knows exactly what mistakes and decisions you will make, but the good news is He loves you in spite of.

Adam said...

Why am I Arminian? Because I choose to be. :)

Anonymous said...

Then do you CHOOSE what sins can cost a person their salvation or is there certain sins that your safe to engage in and other's that will cost you salvation? Why would God pluck somebody he chose from the foundation of the world? That is sad there are people that think they have some input or doing in their salvation. Something they do or don't do directly affects their salvation. That would be a lot of work and stress.

Adam said...

I'm not sure why you're hung up on what sins cause one to lose their salvation. Not all Arminians believe that a person can forfeit (a better word than "lose" as if it were like losing your keys or something) their salvation.

This particular post doesn't really address the Calvinism/Arminianism debate directly; it's about whether Greg Boyd correctly interprets 1 Peter 1:20. Perhaps in the future I will write something about why I'm not a Calvinist (although I have great respect for Calvinists).

Anonymous said...

That's cool. I go to Princeton Theology and they are no Arminian's here and it's rare to find one who has that type of theology. It's just interesting to find somebody that does. Just wondering how you justify when the Bible does not support it. That's all.

Adam said...

Well, stay tuned for possible future posts on Open Theism and the Cal/Arm debate.

Aside: You say the Bible doesn't support Arminian theology. Not only does this beg the question, I think your lack of exposure to Arminian theology, and having Calvinsts explain Arminianism to you has resulted in some misunderstandings. I understand that; I probably don't understand Calvinist theology as well as I should to make an honest critique (one reason for the delay in addressing the subject).

If you want a good introduction to Arminian Theology, I recommend Roger Olson's book "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities."

Thanks for your comments.