Once again this week I am sending out a copy of an ongoing debate I am having with a proponent of what is being called "Process Theology". It also goes by the name of "The Openness of God" concept. In my opinion, this is one of the most subtle and dangerous heresies to come down the pike in quite some time. Characteristically, it really is nothing more than a modern repackaging of an antiquated theological system from the Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina of the 16th century. He formulated a philosophical theory of divine knowledge which is referred to as the concept of "middle knowledge".
In summary, this view proposes that God knows what free, moral agents will do under any given set of circumstances, but their actions are not fixed or determined by the decrees of God so that, in effect, they are completely free. In other words, God's decrees are "open" and not "closed". The future is not irrevocably fixed by God but rather can be altered by the decisions of men. Hence, God is said to be "interactive" with His creatures in shaping the future. This is probably a bit simplistic of an explanation, but given the space constraints it hopefully conveys enough of an impression for the reader to get an overall sense of the scheme.
Various explanations and "proof texts" are offered by the proponents of this view to commend their position. Notably among them is the reference to Jonah and the city of Nineveh in which they claimed that the future of the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh was not "fixed", but was "open" depending on what the response of the citizens of that place would do upon hearing the words of Jonah. Additionally, other references from the New Testament purporting to "prove" that the future destiny of a true child of God is not "fixed" but "open" depending on their various choices are brought forth to further buttress their views.
Needless to say, these are serious issues. Historically, the Reformed faith has rejected any notion that the creature determines its own destiny. Ultimately, the future destiny of every man, woman and child rests squarely in the eternal purpose of the Sovereign God who "doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say to Him, What doest thou"? (Dan 4: 35). Of this God the psalmist wrote:
"Our God is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases" (Psalm 115:3).
That which is in time can in no way influence or effect that which has been determined from eternity past. The decrees of God in eternity past determine that which will take place in time. Every choice that men make in time has already been predetermined by God by His decrees. Even in their seemingly free choice of various options, they are merely doing that which God has already determined they will do. There are so many Scriptures that clearly and unequivocally state this fact that it would be burdensome to provide them all in this brief discussion. We can consider one incident, the single greatest event that ever took place in the history of this world, and give a few, brief comments concerning it to make our point. That incident is the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Consider if you will for a moment all the various decisions that were made by the players involved in that divine drama. A close friend would betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The rulers of the people would seek His death out of envy and jealousy. He would be cruelly scourged and mistreated. A Roman governor would deliver Him up to be crucified on a wooden cross against the testimony of his wife and his own conscience. We could go on and on if need be. The point is, everything happened exactly as God had predicted it would happen through the Scriptures. And why had God been able to "correctly predict" the entire event? Peter gives us the answer in his sermon on the day of Pentecost:
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2: 23)
Shortly after Pentecost, again Peter recounts the entire incidents surrounding the
death of Christ. Once again, he states what happened:
"The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, who thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4: 27-29).
Why was God able to "correctly predict" the crucifixion of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Because He predetermined beforehand exactly how it was to occur! There was nothing left to chance, nothing left to contingency, nothing left to the creature to decide. There was no predicting. All was planned beforehand by God. Think of all the "free choices" made by the men involved in this drama. No one forced Judas to betray Jesus. No one forced the Pharisees and the religious scribes to be jealous of Jesus. No one forced Pilate to deliver Him up to the crowd. All freely chose to do what they did. Yet, in so doing, they chose to do exactly what God had already determined before hand that they would do. They acted as if they were completely free, yet they were bound by the eternal decree of the Most High God as surely as if they had been chained by it! This is a marvelous and awe-inspiring truth; yet it is this very truth that is under assault by the proponents of this "process theology".
It is my opinion that this new scheme is grossly dishonoring to God as it literally robs Him of His sovereignty and makes an absolute mockery of His omniscience. It is really nothing more than cleverly disguised Arminianism under a different wrapper. Sadly, such is the state of the majority of the church world and the ignorance that prevails among the professing people of God, that it is rapidly gaining a foothold. My prayer for you who read this is that God will enable you by His grace to discern the fallacious nature of the entire scheme. I hope to write more about this in the days to come, Lord willing. For now, the following debate will give you a "feel" for what some of its proponents are claiming.
An Ongoing Debate with a Proponent of Process Theology
There are Christians who will depart from the truth such that they will "overthrow the faith of some." II Timothy 2:16-20
Are Hymen and Philetus and those who lost their faith lost?
The answer is we don't know!
I would beg to differ with you on this John. If the faith of some can be overthrown, it is not the faith of God's elect which is a "precious faith" (2Peter 1: 1), which faith is a gift from God (Eph 2: 8) whose gifts and calling are without repentance (Romans 11: 29). IN addition the author and perfector of this faith is Christ Himself. This faith is one that purifies the heart (Acts 15: 9) The Holy Spirit is the immediate producer of this faith in the heart of God's elect and hence is called the "spirit of faith" (2 Cor 4:13). True believers are "sealed" with the Holy Spirit of promise which seal denotes permanence, security and protection. In addition a seal conveys its image to the document being stamped. In like manner the Spirit of God conveys His image of holiness to all whom He seals. Thus the firm foundation of God standeth sure, the Lord knoweth those who are His (He does not know the workers of iniquity, the vessels of dishonor) and all who are His will heed his injunctions and thus depart from iniquity unlike these vessels of dishonor who will not. The reason that they will is because God will work in them "that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 13: 21).
The elect cannot fall away according to the tenor of the everlasting
"And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I WILL NOT TURN AWAY FROM THEM, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that THEY WILL NOT TURN AWAY FROM ME" (Jer 32 :40)
"And I will put MY Spirit within you and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and you WILL BE CAREFUL to observe MY ordinances". (Ezek 36: 27)
Respectfully John, when you can prove to me that these words do not mean what they so clearly say, then I will be willing to admit your premise that any of God's elect can fall away and have their faith lost. The faithfulness of God is involved here. I would caution you to be very careful about impugning that.
In addition, we do clearly know what became of Hymenaeous and Philetus. They were apostates and perished eternally. The Scripture text I sent you from 1 John yesterday proves that.
"They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out from us, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 John 2: 19).
Those that denied the doctrine of the resurrection proved that they were of antichrist since the resurrection is proof of our justification before God. No resurrection and we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15: 12-17).
As far as vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor are concerned - Have you not read the parable of the wheat and the tares, the bad fish and the good fish, the wise virgins and the foolish virgin? Why is it that you cannot understand the fact that the visible kingdom of God in this earth always contains a mixture. Jesus clearly and unequivocally teaches that these tares are the sons of the evil one. The parable of the sower and the seed clearly teaches that there is a "temporary" faith "(they believe for a while" Luke 8:13) which brings no fruit to maturity (v. 14). This "faith" is set in stark contrast to that of God's elect who bear fruit with perserverance (v. 15), some 30, some 60, some 100. There is a vast difference between fruit bearing and no fruit bearing.
There are Christians who will be caught up in surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this world.
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your heart be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life." Luke 21:34
These words are addressed to the disciples concerning the events that preceded the destruction of the temple in 70 AD by the Roman armies under Titus. History clearly records that the early Christians took these words of Jesus to heart and fled the city of Jerusalem and went to safety in the hills and were thus spared when "that day" came upon Jerusalem suddenly.
There are Christians who will serve God faithfully for years, but won't make the finish line.
Could Paul be lost ? What was the prize he was running for?
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
I Corinthians 9:24-27
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
II Timothy 4:7
This proves nothing John. If anything you give away the entire argument by quoting from 2 Tim 4: 7. Paul did indeed finish the course and did indeed keep the faith and so will all of God's elect. This is in perfect accord with the tenor of the everlasting covenant which I quoted earlier. All the elect will take to heart the warnings of Scripture and by so doing will be safely kept as those are one of the means whereby God keeps His elect from danger. The apostate will not heed these warnings and thus be lost. The image of the race is a beautiful one of sanctification. We run, not HOPING we might win the prize, rather we run KNOWING we shall win the prize.
Some Christians will hear their master say "Well done thou good and faithful servant."
Will the Christian who is saved "so as by fire" hear these words? I Cor 3:12-15
Will the vessel unto "dishonour" in the "great house" of God hear these words?
Will those whose bodies have been destroyed by Satan hear these words?
Will those who suffered death for failure to discern the Lord's body hear these words?
Will Ananias and Sapphira hear these words?
The passage referred to above in 1 Cor 3: 12-15 is one of the most frequently misused passages in the entire Word of God. If you carefully read the context from which it is taken you will see that this is referring to MINISTERIAL LABORS. This is referring to works of ministry which are gold, silver precious stones compared to those of wood, hay, stubble. This is not dealing with the issue of the saint's salvation nor their character (fruit in keeping with repentance). It is dealing with "useless" ministry which accomplishes nothing in the Kingdom of God. All the ministers of Christ should take heed to themselves to build carefully on the foundation laid by Christ and the apostles. Any so-called "minister of Christ" who perverts the foundation of God by false and heretical teachings will perish eternally since he is doing in himself what he can to destroy the temple of God which is holy (1 Cor 3: 17).
This is what happened to Hymenaeus and Philetus and those whom the apostle John warned us about were of the antichrist.
Are there true servants of God who do not teach heresy but yet whose ministry does not build up the saints of God? Of course there are. Paul charges Timothy to instruct those who would be teachers to not venture into the area of fruitless discussion which does not further the administration of God which is by faith' (1 Tim 1: 5-6)
That is why James warns all would be teachers to realize that as such, they will incur a stricter judgment. They will also have to answer for their doctrine. This is a sobering warning to all who hold positions of authority and teach the saints.
I have already dealt with the vessels of dishonor and disposed of that objection.
The issue of Satan in disciplining the child of God is a fascinating one. That God uses the devil to chastise His own children and correct them when they stray is revealed by that passage in 1 Cor 5 you are citing from. The devil thus becomes the "rod" in the hand of our Father to drive the foolishness out of us. This chastisement is a proof of His love for us for He only disciplines those who are His own (Hebrews 12: 8). The fact is that this discipline was indeed effectual on the offender in the Corinthian church as Paul urged them to restore him in the second letter. The destruction of the flesh is an idiom used to express all manner of physical and earthly sorrow or havoc that would be inflicted. It includes calamities, pains and sickness if the offender is not careful. Where does it say that Satan killed this man?
The case of those who failed to discern the Lord's body proves that God will discipline His children to teach them what He requires of them. This is done so that they are not condemned along with the rest of the world. (v.32) Those who "slept" as Paul puts it so tactfully is a bit more complex. There was no doubt that among the Corinthian church were many tares. It is my own personal conviction that those who died were tares that were in their midst. The true saints of God were disciplined. I say this based on other texts of Scripture:
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy Word" (Psalm 119: 67)
"The Lord has disciplined me severely, but But HAS NOT GIVEN ME OVER TO DEATH" (Psalm 118: 18)
It is out of character with God to strike down one of His own children summarily without first disciplining them. His discipline of them, like anything He does, cannot but succeed in accomplishing His purpose. I find no instance in the entirety of Scripture where God is said to have killed one of His own children in an attempt to "discipline" them. Why must He kill them? Can He not work effectually in them and work that which is pleasing in His own sight. Could any of His elect be too powerful to resist His will which is their sanctification? (1 Thes 4: 3). His discipline of those Corinthians which were inflicted with sickness did indeed have its intended effect. Clement's writings prove that the Corinthian church became a model of purity upon the exit of the apostle Paul from this world.
Ananias and Sapphira were lost and perished eternally. They both were lovers of money as the story obviously proves for it could only have been the greed that lurked in their heart that could have led them into this sin. Satan was aware of this and thus "filled their heart" to lie directly to the apostle. They were both hypocrites, pretending to be devout, holy and completely and thoroughly committed to the cause of Christ. What they did in bringing the money was dissemble and pretend to be pious. All such hypocrites are an abomination to Christ who continuously denounced the Pharisees for this great and heinous sin. IN addition, in Colossians 3: 5 we are told that greed is idolatry because it is a worship or loving of money more than that of God. No idolater or liar shall inherit the kingdom of God (Rev 22: 15). Jesus clearly stated that no man can serve two masters; he will hate one and cling to the other. By logical inference we can say that both Ananias and Sapphira were haters of God since they were lovers of money and no hater of God is a child of God.
Do all Christians make the chain mentioned in II Peter 1:5-7 such that they are "neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ"?
The purpose of Peter's instruction is so that the saints of God will not be unfruitful. They will heed these words and thus bring forth fruit to God.
"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so PROVE to be My disciples" (John 15: 8)
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you" (John 15: 16).
All true saints of God will bear fruit, because God has appointed that they should, some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. Those who do not are apostates, thorny ground hearers, who do not bring forth fruit to maturity.
John, you seem to have difficulty accepting the fact that God uses means to accomplish His end. The Scriptures are given to instruct us, to warn us, to reprove us, to rebuke us, etc, etc. The arguments you are setting forth are the same ones that Arminians commonly use. Simply because there is a warning of eternal damnation addressed in the word of God does not imply that the true child of God will receive of this. They will thank God for the warning, heed it and thus be kept safe. The fear of the Lord is a gift from God and the true saints of God are careful not to trifle with Him. It is only the apostate who disregard the warnings of Scripture to their own eternal ruin.
John, I have done my honest best to answer every single question you have sent me with every Scripture you have referred to. But I must admit, this is getting a bit lopsided since you are not addressing my questions specifically but are rather simply raising more of your own. I am sincerely with a good conscience attempting to meet you there. But I still have to ask you to answer my questions and the Scripture verses I am specifically mentioning if we are going to continue this. Please take time to go back through my previous posts and address those if you would be so kind.
Here are five very simple ones for a start.
1.) Can Christ Jesus lose any of His sheep? Yes or No and why?
2.) Can the intercession of the Lord Christ ever fail to secure that which it prays for? Yes or No and Why?
3.) Can the Lord Jesus Christ ever fail to do the will of the Father? Yes or No and Why?
4.) Is the sealing of the Holy Spirit a blessing which Christ has purchased by His death? Yes or No?
5.) Please address the promises of the everlasting covenant specifically cited above in Jer and Ezek.
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