Category Archives: Book Review

A Greater God: Review of “God of the Possible”

god-of-the-possible

Suppose God knows whatever He wants to know?

Suppose for just a moment that God doesn’t know everything. For a Christian to make such a statement might seem heretical, but allow the thought for the sake of theological wonder and not out of some sense of rebellion or defiance. Suppose God truly has allowed mankind free will, and so doesn’t know exactly everything each individual will do from one moment to the next. Suppose God hasn’t micromanaged the affairs of mankind such that He has perfectly complete foreknowledge of everything that will happen before it does. Furthermore suppose that even if this is true, God is still God, the Almighty, and it doesn’t diminish His abilities or nature in any way. Everything He has created is still under His complete control and a present is still inexorably moving toward a future He has planned. All this could even suppose Him to be more glorious than we first imagined.

In this book, Greg Boyd takes the reader on an exploration of this God of the Possible. His book makes good arguments from the Open Theism view of God’s foreknowledge to explain portions of Scripture which become difficult to understand by the classical view. Historically, theologians seem to have a chicken-or-egg understanding of God’s foreknowledge.

Augustine and Calvin and maintain that the future will be a certain way because God foreknows it this way. Others follow Arminius and argue that God foreknows the future a certain way because the future simply will be that way. In other words, classical theologians disagree about what comes first. Does God’s foreknowledge determine the future, or does the future determine God’s foreknowledge? – Pg. 22

Boyd suggests that Scripture reveals to us an understanding of God which follows neither completely. He distinguishes the Open View from a Process View of God in this way…

This understanding of divine sovereignty contrasts sharply with a popular liberal theological movement called “process theology.” Some evangelical authors have wrongly accused open theists of being close to process thought, but in truth the two views have little in common. Process thought holds that God can’t predetermine or foreknow with certainty anything about the distant future. Open theists rather maintain that God can and does predetermine and foreknow whatever he wants to about the future.

In the Open View of God there is the possibility that God doesn’t know some things simply because they don’t exist. God is still God. He knows whatever it is He wants to know. He is the One Who has created all things in and through Christ. He speaks of the unknown as if it exists, but these are the things that are unknown to us not to Him. There is nothing that was made without Him and His knowledge. It isn’t about what we know. It’s about Him and His creation. Therefore, it is our concept of God that is flawed. We are, as it were, in God’s grand computer game. A real life simulation, if you will. He allows mankind to function with freedom, but He sets the parameters of the game. He formed us and knows us, even to the extent that He knows our proclivities.

Our omniscient Creator knows us perfectly, far better than we even know ourselves. Hence, we can assume that He is able to predict our behavior far more extensively and accurately than we could predict it ourselves. This does not mean that everything we will ever do is predictable, for our present character doesn’t determine all of our future. But it does mean that our behavior is predictable to the extent that our character is solidified and future circumstances that will affect us are in place.

He knew Judas would betray Christ because He knew Judas’ flawed inclinations. If Judas hadn’t been around, He could have and would have arranged for someone else with the same sort of character flaws to step in.

God makes the following appeal to His own purpose…

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, 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’  – Isaiah 46:9,10

Notice that in declaring “the end from the beginning” He does not speak in specifics about particulars yet to come, but instead that His purpose will be accomplished. In the book, Boyd states,

He is so confident in his power and wisdom that he is willing to grant an appropriate degree of freedom to humans (and angels) to determine their own futures.

In the classical view of God, He makes no mistakes. Yet we are faced with at least two scriptures, Genesis 6:6-7 and 1 Samuel 15:11, in which God states that He repents or changes His mind of something He has done. These are difficult passages for classical theologians to handle. Yet in Boyd’s view of Open Theology a God who takes risks is a God too secure in Himself, His promises and His purposes not to.

Classical theologians, however, generally reject the notion that God takes risks of any sort… First, don’t we normally regard someone who refuses to take risks as being insecure? Don’t we ordinarily regard a compulsion to meticulously control everything as evidencing weakness, not strength?… God is “not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Note, however, that this means that most Christians already believe that God doesn’t always get his way. And logically this means most Christians must accept that God took risks when he created the world. Among other things, every time he created free moral agents he took the risk that they might choose to destroy themselves by rejecting him.

Just as the passage in 2 Peter would indicate, not every event and not every person performs exactly as God would have it. God sets the choices. Mankind chooses.

It is a fascinating consideration of an alternative to Calvinist and Arminian omniscient views. Boyd’s advice regarding his book is well taken and a reminder as to the guiding principle Christian truth seekers should follow.

This does not mean that we must always agree on all things, any more than the love between a husband and wife means that they must always agree. It does mean, however, that we must agree to love one another amidst our disagreements. If we only love those who agree with us, we are in fact not loving others at all; we are only loving the (assumed) “rightness” of our own ideas!

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Review: “People of the Lie”

People of the lieWritten by a psychiatrist, People of the Lie is a fascinating look into the nature of evil. Dr. Peck’s Christian understanding and psychiatric training provide a unique basis for this book. His is not a biblical examination of evil, although I believe a work of this kind requires at least some biblical foundation. His observations on group evil and exorcism alone make the book a must read for any Christian.

Having stumbled upon quotes from this book by a couple of other bloggers, my interest was piqued and decided to get a copy. I’ve long believed that a Christian can only have a complete understanding of good by having some understanding of evil. Dr. Peck explores several case studies he believes reveals the workings of evil. The title of the book comes from his psychiatric experiences with patients. People influenced by evil characteristically lie. In his study, this is evil’s primary tactic. People of the lie are narcissistic individuals who deceive themselves and others into believing they are morally upstanding and otherwise good people. In this way they typically avoid the light of scrutiny or truth which reproves them as the Bible states.

Given the fact that this is a work focused on a scientific study of evil, and a definition of evil which the average Christian may not have considered, his assessments on exorcism fall short, in my opinion. Nevertheless it is significant that Peck was a Christian believer and a trained psychiatrist who gives credibility to the practice of exorcism. There is a spiritual factor involved in evil which is beyond the scientific method to comprehend. Peck, to his credit, attempts to bridge the gap to give great insight into the character and nature of evil. This is a book highly recommended to any Christian believer who wants to better appreciate the work of God the Father and Jesus His Christ in redemption.