Prophecy, free will and the openness of the future…

This older post from Richard Becks Experimental Theology site has been popping up in the dutch blog- and twitterverse a few times lately:Why the anti-christ is an idiot. It’s kinda funny, but it also reminds me of old King Herod. I’ve always wondered what was going on in the guys head: he hears from the magi about a newborn king, and supposes it is the messiah of which the prophecies speak. So what does he do: he tries to kill the newborn messiah…

Isn’t this very strange? How can anyone in their right mind believe in the prophecy that tells about the birth of the messiah, and then still think that they can stop the rest of the prophecy by killing the baby? It’s a strange way of taking prophecy serious: believing in it and still believing you can change the end of the story in a way that workes out better for you…

It’s a strange subject: prophecy and the openness of the future. I as a Christian do believe in prophecy, including foretelling prophecy. (I even believe as a charismatic that it still happens today, even though I’m very sceptical about the wacko prophecies that arise out of some corners of the hypercharismatic world that never seem to be fulfilled) For example I believe that Jesus was the fulfilling of a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament, like the gospels tell us, and like Jesus told the guys on the way to Emmaus. So I believe God can, and does, show us the future. (And sometimes hide it in weird cryptical pictures that only are clears afterward…but that’s another story)

But yet I don’t believe in a God that micro-manages everything, but in free will. So even if God is above time the future is in a way ‘open’. We do what we do in free will. We might be influenced by our instincts, our DNA, our trauma, the Holy Spirit or even more evil spirits, whatever,… But our deeds are ours, and we more or less choose them. Otherwise justice cannot even exist. If God micromanages every very deed we do, He is the cause of our sin, not we. Then He is behind everything He says He hates in the bibles, which does not make much sense at all… (I don’t say that God should always follow our human logic, but this is evil nonsense and even blasphemy[1])

So I wouldn’t use the modern concept of the universe as a watch and God as a watchmaker (an idea which did much harm to christianity defending itself in modernity, sorry mr. Paley) The universe is not a machine (and neither is the human being, or any living organism) But more as God sheperding both this world and the lives of believers -and non-believers-. Leading it, and where needed influencing it, probably correcting it here and there, but letting the world mostly unfold in it’s onw free will. Except of course that when God wants to do someting, it will happen. God will maken it happen. After all, He is the Almighty…

I was thinking about the same concept when I was re-reading the silver chair, one of the narnia stories by C.S. Lewis, who in his non-fiction also speaks of God above time and seeing all time at once (I think it was in mere christianity) and who says to defend a traditional view there. In the beginning Aslan sends Jill on a quest to find the lost prince, and he also gives her some signs that she and Eustace should follow, which they mostly don’t. They pretty much screw op most of the time! But in spite of that, they manage to find the prince, and save Narnia from an evil witch who wants to enslave it once more… So Aslan is working towards something with the 2 children, and probably cleaning up the mess behind the scenes, but in the end he gets to the goal. It could’ve happened more easily is they had talked the old King, or not had gone to the city of giants, but still the outcome is there: the prince is found, and Narnia is saved!

God has an outcome, but that does not mean that the ways are fixed. So that means that foretelling prophecy might just be God telling what His plans are, not revealing a fixed future… Like Jonah foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, which doesn’t happen because the people change their mind…

So, is this ‘open theism’? I honestly don’t know. I guess I should read some Greg Boyd on the subject. I don’t know if we as humans can even understand how the relation is between eternity where God lives and our time… We probably are flatlanders explaining a goldfish in the terms of our 2D worldview. I believe that God created time as we know it together with our universe -so I reject process theology- and I also know that God the son entered time in the incarnation. Maybe it is a mystery. God does probably influence a lot more than we realise, and the paradox between free will and predestination might be solved from a view outside of this time…

But the future is calling us. The Kingdom of God is already breaking is into our world here and now sometimes. That which started with the resurrection will once be a whole new earth and a whole new heaven, and it’s inviting us to join in already. God is calling us, and will do all he can, and fulfill His promises. But that does not mean we have to sit back and wait…



[1] I am aware that some in the reformed tradition try to make sense of this kind of ideas, in order to protect their faith from problems that I don’t see, but that’s not my problem… It’s not my tradition and I don’t care any more about supposed calvinist theology and philosophy(of which some wouldn’t even be recoginised by old John Calvin) than I do about the infallibility of the pope. It only would distract me from the Christ and the bible to engage in such discussions, even when I see both reformed and catholics as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

3 responses to “Prophecy, free will and the openness of the future…

  1. Interesting topic indeed. Keeps you busy for a few hours…
    I remember that Raymond Volgers (is he still teaching Christian doctrine at IBV?) made his thesis on Greg Boyd’s ‘open theism’. (How are your classes going?)
    A book I can lend you is “Most moved mover, a theology of God’s openness” by Clark Pinnock, a brilliant Canadian professor of systematic theology who sadly passed away last summer.
    Btw, Pinnock is definitely the kind of ‘freethinker’ that would inspire a freethinker like you …


  2. Does “God” really have a plan or an outcome?
    Does “God” ever make promises? And to whom?
    Which God?
    The Great Tradition of humankind consists of thousands of names for God.
    Is God a he?
    Some traditions worship the Divine Reality as SHE or Shakti.
    SHE or the universal creative energy was once very part of the Tradition of Judaism.
    SHE is the origin of the cult of Mary within the Catholic tradition.

    And why does everything always have to turn out to be Christian?
    Especially after 1700 years of Christian created murder and mayhem – as pointed to and described on this site:

    Even more so in 2011 when 4 billion living-breathing-feeling human beings are not Christians, and when all of the sacred Texts of the entire Great Tradition of humankind are freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

    Meanwhile there are now more Christians on the planet than ever before. More Bibles and Christian literature of all kinds, including comic books. More Christian TV, radio, websites, CD’s and DVD’s than ever before. And yet the entire world is becoming more insane every day.
    What is more, many of the leading vectors of that insanity are right-wing Christian religionists, especially in the USA.

  3. God is referred to as “He” because of linguistics, but God is a (or better the) spiritual Supreme being, so he does not have the a sex like some of the beings he created. And since genesis 1 says that mankind, both man and woman is created in Gods image, ‘she’ would be as (in)accurate and for some reasons I mostly don’t care for that much we Christians don’t use that. The tetragrammon (YHWH) has no sex in Hebrew anyway so it’s just a semantic problem… God trancends male and female, and all good characteristics of both sexes in humanity are images of the Character of God. (Maybe I should use God and Gods instead of He and His)

    God has made promises to people in the Scriptures, like Abraham (Jews and muslims will agree with me on this one!) and to His Chosen people (Israel in the old testament) to the Church, or to all of mankind. We can find them in the bible, even though that’s not a book full of promises, but a library with lots of styles, of which the narrative is the most important.

    Which God? The nature of a Divine Supreme Creator Being is so that there can be only one, so there is just one God. So if we have different ideas about them or we are seeing different aspects of him, like the blinds who feel the leg and the trunk of an elephant and then know what kind of thing an elephant is, even though thye contradict. Or some ideas are wrong. The Truth about God is something bigger than the world and biggeer than the concepts in our head, so our speaking about god will always be insufficient…

    God has a plan, not specificly with our lives, but with the world. The goal is a renewed world rid of all evil, the new Jerusalem described in the last chapters of the book of revelation, when the Kingdom of God will be completely and will have no end.

    Why everything has to turn out Christian? I believe in Christ as the incarnation of God, not is all what’s done in the name of Christianity, especially after being co-opted by politics. I believe in the love of enemies and the spirit of the sermon and the mount, the care for the poor and weak, the sacrifice of self, the coming Kingdom of God in which all evil (including violence) has been eradicated. Like all ideas and religions, Christianity has been abused for things that are antithetic to the message of Christ.

    The eight-wing insanity in the US has not much to do in Christ, except in name. it’s synchretism with neoliberalism and hyperpattriotism, and it has compromised the values of Christ, and it does not represent me at all as a Christian (I’m european anyway) Sure there will be nuggets of Christ left and there will be genuine believers in Christ, but overall the ‘religious right madness’ in America is not based on Christ or the new testament, and it does in firstplace worship America and other idols that have nothing to do with Christ. Some of it is as true to Christ as Charles Manson was to the beatles…



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