Satan’s Rebellion Serves God’s Purposes – Erwin Lutzer

erwin lutzer

photo credit moodychurch.org

The omniscience of God- I want you to imagine that someone’s been following you ever since you were born and accurately recording everything you have ever done. Every move, every time you combed your hair, looked down, blinked your eyes. Suppose that someone was also recording every word you ever said. We’re told that an average person speaks enough in a lifetime to fill a small library. Need I tell you that some people’s library  is bigger than others? But let us suppose that in addition to that, all of the thoughts that you have ever had  would be recorded that way. The library that would comprise those thoughts  would be much bigger than the other two put together, cause most people think more than they speak or even act. So, here, you have a library  that would be hundreds of thousands of volumes, really, all about you. But, let’s magnify this a little bit and ask this question. Now, what we want to do is to expand this a little bit and ask you a different question. Let us suppose that this library contained not only information which is true about you, but also information that would have been true of you if you had been brought up in different circumstances. Because you know that if you had been brought up in Alaska, in a different family, you would have thought differently, you would have said many different things, and you would have done many, many acts. And to be consistent then, let us suppose that this library contained all potentialities that could possibly exist of you and how you could have acted , thought, and what you would have said, if you had been born in every single one of the homes of the world throughout different periods of history. Well, of course, our mind is boggling at this time.

But I do have a a question. Does God have that kind of information about you or not? It’s mind boggling to think that the answer is yes. He not only had information about you that is actual, but information about you that would have been true if circumstances would have been different. So, he not only knows what is, but He knows what can be and knows all the choices that you and I are going to make. That, at least, is the historic position of the Christian church. Now, as you know, there is the church today, in evangelical circles, a debate about this- on omniscience. There are theologians that believe in the openness of God. The openness of God is that God does not know our decisions ‘til we make them, because after all we are free pictures. That’s the argument. And as a result of that, God knows only potentialities. That is to say, He knows only what you might decide, but He doesn’t know what you will decide until you make that decision. It’s like a chess game. God is playing chess with us. He does not know the moves we’re going to make, and other people are better chess players than we are, and in the end He will win. But, while the game is going on, He does not know  what our move is going to be.

Socinus – Consequently, we have today known as the openness of God. In the end, God wins, no question. But, the simple fact is that God is always responding to what we’re doing. He’s not initiating anything. After all, we have this precious thing called free will. But, God is doing His best. God will win. Is this just an academic debate? Something that theologians are always wrestling with this issue? You know, theologians are debating how many angels  can stand on the head of a pin? And so, let’s just ignore it. I want to suggest today that this debate is at the heart and soul of who God is and actually affects our ability to trust God. And therefore, I think it is a tremendously important debate. In order for you to understand it, let me give you a little background  of the origin of the idea of this finite God- finite Godism. At the time of the Reformation there was a man called Faustus Socinus. As a matter of fact, he lived during the time of Luther and essentially denied the Bible. If you study the history of liberalism, I remember doing that years ago, we spoke about Socinianism, which is a denial of Scripture. One of the things that Socinus argued was that people have free will and because people have free will and God cannot know what they’re going to choose until they actually make that decision. It was said during Greek times  that the gods had cobwebs over their eyes and people felt more freedom when God wasn’t watching. So the whole idea is to redefine omniscience. And omniscience was defined like this: God knows all things that can be known. That was the new definition of omniscience. God knows all things that can be known, but, the freewill decision of creatures that have not yet made their decisions cannot be known because it is beyond His realm of knowledge, because the decisions have not taken place yet. That was Socinus.

William James – We jump to the United States of America and to William James who had a great impact on education. William James also believed in a finite God, saying that God was in  a battle and the outcome was uncertain. Now, those who believe in the openness of God do not believe that it is uncertain. They say that definitely God wins. But the simple fact is, let me quote the words of William James. He says, „God cannot foresee  exactly what anyone actually sees what the move of His actual adversary might be. He knows, however, the possible moves of His adversary and He knows in advance to meet each one by a move of His own. The point is, again, that God cannot know the decisions free people make, until they make them.

Clark Pinnock – Jumping to our generation, Clark Pinnock, at the McMaster College in Canada, a man under whom I studied about 30 years ago, and who was a very interesting and engaging person. I don’t think he held these views then, but he was heading in this direction. He says that God interacts with His creatures in a changing situation. He learns about our decision  as they happen, not before they happen. His experience of the world is open  and He is involved in the ongoing course of events. That’s where we get the term open theology or the openness of God, that God responds while it’s happening. ANd He gives us freedom and He doesn’t know how we’re gonna respond. He has some hunches, but He cannot know it infallibly.

Greg Boyd, up at Bethel College has also contributed a great deal to the debate . He’s with Pinnock and he says, „If we had been given freedom, we create the reality of our own decision by making them. So God can’t foreknow the good, the bad decisions of people He creates until He creates those people and they create their decisions. So, once again, God doesn’t know everything. He knows what is knowable, but, the decisions of free creatures is beyond the realm of anyone’s knowledge until those free creatures decide what they’re going to do.

What is the motivation that lies behind  the openness of God theology?

First of all, a radical view of human freedom. I don’t know in the history of theology  any theologians that in the past , except of course those that were extremely liberal, hold to such a radical view of human freedom, where the human will is free. The whole business of the freedom of the will has a very very long history. I wrote a book titled ‘Doctrines that divide’ and I spent 4 chapters on free will vs. predestination, right back to Augustin vs. Pelagius, Luther vs. Erasmus, Arminianims vs. Calvinism, then Whitefield vs. Wesley, and traced the debate through history, because it has e very very interesting history. So it is not my intention to enter in any of those debates, but I will give you some guidelines about it. But, this is a radical view of human freedom, because the argument is this. And let’s think now.

Here’s their argument: If God were to know infallibly that Cain is going to kill Abel, then it could not have happened. It will happen the way that God foreknows it, and these theologians want to argue against the fixity (I don’t know if there’s a word like that), but what they want to do is argue against the fact that it is fixed. Because if God knows all things will happen the way God knows it will happen, and they don’t want to go there. There a second reason, and they are motivated to try to protect God from this difficult, difficult problem of evil. Now the problem of evil has occupied a lot of my time as it has a lot of theologians throughout history. And no matter how you cut it, the problem of evil  is a huge problem in which even if we give some kind of a rationalistic biblical answer, it still not satisfying. Ultimately, we have to wait for God to resolve it, in my humble opinion. But, the simple fact is that the argument is this: If god didn;t know that Lucifer was going to fall, then somehow God is less culpable and less responsible for the evil in the world. Because you see, the other theologians, and by other I mean folks like myself and other folks of my tradition, we believe that God ordained all things, including evil is part of God’s ordained plan. These people wanna say absolutely not, we have a good God, He didn’t plan it. t happened and He is now trying to react to it as best He can. Greg Boyd has a quote in one of his books that says there’s a lot of risk involved, a lot of things went bad.

Now, let me give you some reasons why I don’t accept the openness of God and then we’re gonna discuss Satan’s role.

Notes from the first 14 minutes. The length of the video is 1 hour and 45 minutes)

Satan’s Rebellion Serves God’s Purposes – Erwin Lutzer from Biblical Restoration Ministries on Vimeo.

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