So, though this post will be aimed at discrediting a very heretical teaching called “Open Theism” that many people today are following, I also wish to show here just how amazing the Gospel is and how powerful it stands up against any false teaching. I love apologetics, but I realize more and more as I grow in God’s Word that it is His Word alone that is the greatest defense of Himself. This should cause us all to hunger and thirst more for His Word so that, not only will our hearts overflow with love for Him, but we will also be able to quickly identify and refute false teaching that seeks to infiltrate the church today. I say “today”, but the truth is that false teaching has been trying to infiltrate the church since its day of inception. Scripture calls us to be on our guard against such false teaching. The way that we are able to obey this command and stand guard is by coming to the Word ourselves over and over and over, so that we can know Him more and thus be able to expose heretical teaching and prevent it from entering our lives.
The best way to expose heretical teaching, stand against it, and not be persuaded by it is not to focus so much on what is heretical, but more so to focus on what is true. I have heard that in teaching professionals in the FBI how to discern counterfeit money from real money, rather than showing them all of the different ways that money can be counterfeited, instead they spend their time just studying real money. They learn absolutely everything there is to know about real money. They study every single symbol, letter, color scheme, water mark, etc. In doing this, they are able to identify thousands of different counterfeits. How? Because they studied and learned about thousands of different counterfeits? No, but rather because they have spent so much time studying the real thing, that anything that does not match the real thing is easily identified as a counterfeit.
May we as Christians be like that in our pursuit of the Word of God. That way, any time that a teaching or viewpoint is brought into our church or our own personal lives, we will have the confident ability to discern whether or not this teaching is true according to the Word of God or if it is false. If we do not know the Word of God for ourselves, then we can easily be deceived by many different teachings that will take us away from the truth of knowing who God is. We can end up being led away from the worship of our One true God who is worthy of all honor, praise, and glory and end up creating an image or an “idol” that may look like God, but the reality is that it is not God if the teaching does not conform entirely to Scripture. So, I hope that we can all be encouraged to be like the bereans, whom after they heard Paul speak to them about Christ, went back and studied the Scriptures to see if Paul’s words conformed to the Holy Scriptures.
So, I was reading one day a post on a blog called Laura Parker Life Overseas The post was called “Knock Down Drag Out” and it was basically the writer sharing about frustrations her family was experiencing in life and trying to understand God in the midst of so many of their dreams falling apart. So, being the fact that I could relate to the struggle from all the things that we have gone through, but also the hope that God has given us in the midst of such suffering, I decided to comment on her post. I also commented because I saw another person’s comment who stated that they found comfort in the words “At least I don’t have cancer, or at least my children are safe, or at least…” So, seeing the danger in a statement like that, I sat down and wrote the following comment:
Wow! This is a discussion that I can really enter into these days. We ourselves have felt like the carpet has been ripped out from underneath us BIG TIME. But it is true that as believers in Christ and His eternal promises, like Scripture says, we are “struck down, but not destroyed, persecuted, but not abandoned, hard pressed, but not crushed.” And we certainly have been all these things.
Having lived through the earthquake in Haiti where we are missionaries, then hear that our 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with stage IV terminal cancer, then to return to the states and live in hospitals and hotel rooms for the next ten months for treatment, then to have her called home to Heaven after all the fighting, then to return to Haiti a few months later, and now we are back in the states because last week our house was broken into at gunpoint and shots were fired through our bedroom door where I had my wife and children hiding behind as the thieves also had 3 guns pointed at me demanding that I give them all our money.
So, yeah, I totally get where you are coming from as far as the confusion or the frustration as to why this happens.
But here’s what I continue to say through it all…and trust me…this is not just some trite Christianese. In the words of Job, “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”
You see, the problem comes when we try to make sense as to why these things happen to us but only look at things from a temporal, and often self-centered, viewpoint. That’s where it doesn’t make sense at all and that’s where we can get very discouraged. But as Christians, we must remember the words of Jesus, “In this world you will have many troubles, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” So, I think our solace and our hope come not from a season, no matter how long or short, of trouble free, all your dreams are unfolding, life is good, but rather from knowing that no matter what happens, Christ has risen, is on His throne, and has promised to take us to be with Him. Here is where all of our hope lies. We can’t forget that.
The first comment written on your post came from someone who stated, For now- I console myself with this: At least I don’t have cancer! My kids are safe and not being abused! I have a husband who is right in this with me!” Again, I understand that we can always try to find solace or comfort with thinking that you don’t have it as bad as others. But what does someone like me do with something like that. I didn’t have cancer, but even worse, my little princess had cancer and did not survive it. My kids were not safe…they were just shot at last week by evil men who invaded our home and violated us. I cannot find solace in a statement such as “well, at least I don’t have it as bad as someone else.” Even though I’m certain that that’s true. I’m sure that there are people who lost more than one of their young children to a deadly disease.
But that’s not where we can find our hope and solace. Our hope as believers comes from ONE thing. God is good. It is not trite at all to say this. I think by hearing some of what we have gone through it is safe to say that I am allowed to say such things and not sound fluffy duffy and trite. But it is plain fact. He is sovereign and is in control of everything. And He has a purpose for everything. Even our greatest sufferings, trials, setbacks, failures, etc. He will use it for His glory. We simply need to trust Him in this. I think we need to be careful when we talk about our dreams. Again, sometimes we have a tendency to become self focused when we talk in terms of our dreams. It can be dangerous. The Bible doesn’t call us to pursue our dreams, but rather to pursue Christ, to live for Him and make His name known. And this must be for His glory alone, not for ourselves, otherwise we are missing something here.
Trust me, I know the struggle. And right now, sitting here in an undisclosed location in the states after having to flee Haiti in a moment…again…we wrestle and ask the Lord what He is doing through all of this because we certainly cannot make sense of any of it. And often, the Lord has been silent when it comes to our questions. But we sense that still small voice deep within the core of our being that bids us come as we hear Him say again, “Trust me.”
I will end my “comment” with something that I wrote about after Susana was taken home to Heaven. Corrie Ten Boom writes, “Only Heaven will reveal the front side of God’s tapestry of our lives.” Right now, we can only see the back of the tapestry. It looks like a mess. Nothing makes sense. Colors are random. Knots are everywhere. There is no rhythm or pattern. That is what the backside of a tapestry looks like. But when that tapestry is completed and flipped over and hung out for all to see, the comments are no longer, “This does not make sense”, but rather, “Wow, how incredibly beautiful!” And this, I believe, is what Heaven will reveal.
But until then fellow soldiers…press on. God has a plan…and He does all things well.
This comment kind of took on a life of its own and I had people emailing me often after that asking if they could re-post it on their own blog, which of course I gave permission to do so in hopes of it bringing glory to God.
So, another blogger posted it on their blog and it drew in several comments, most of which glorified the Lord by bringing encouragement, challenge, and hope in Christ to people who read it.
But then I received a comment from somebody who said that he pitied me because I hold to a belief that God caused, or at least fully allowed, my daughter’s cancer for reasons greater than I am aware. And that it was very sad of me to simply look at that and say that God is still good even though I don’t understand why He allowed so much suffering in my life and the life of my daughter. He said that he was concerned for my welfare for holding to such a faulted view of God. He told me that for me to be told and then believe that God causes and allows suffering, in this case my daughter’s cancer, so that in the long run He will be most glorified…could anyone come up with a more tormenting and confusing theological conundrum.
So, before responding to his post, I went to this person’s website and after reading a few of his own posts, it was very apparent to me that he unapologetically holds to a view called “Open Theism”. This is a very dangerous heretical teaching that has crept into the church in more recent years. The main premise of this belief is that God does not know the total future. Much of it is open and He reacts for our good as He sees things unfold. And because He does not know the future completely, it would mean that God is inside time just like we are rather than being outside of time. So, I wrote a comment in response to his comment. I also did this, and am doing this here, in hopes of us all learning the importance of guarding the faith and letting the Word of God refute all false teaching. My comment was as follows:
The truth is, that after reading some posts on Matt’s blog, it is very evident that he strongly holds to a view of open theism, therefore I can see why he could be so appalled by how I have processed the suffering that I have been through. The view of open theism holds to a belief that God does not know the future, therefore Him loving us causes Him to risk. This makes God attractable to those who follow Him because it shows that God is loving us by choosing to risk. A person with this view could not see how God could be fully loving if He knows the complete future and orchestrates all events to His end. They would say that this does not enable God to truly love because there is no risk if He knows everything. They also believe that God cannot be held accountable for suffering because God Himself is unaware of what people are going to do, therefore He is free from any accountability.
So, I have no desire to bring this to an argument here, but I will say that I couldn’t disagree more with this point of view, and I can’t see it for the life of me in the Bible. It just does not hold up to the fulness of Scripture. The Scriptures are filled with verses that state that God does indeed know all things, is in complete control of all things, rules all things for the ultimate purpose of His glory. God cannot be stopped by any human hands. He is sovereign ruler over all. What does an open theist make of “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny, yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from it being the will of your Heavenly Father.” What does he make of the story of Joseph – “You meant these things for evil, but God meant it for good.” In other words, God was behind the scenes the entire time working out His perfect plan that would save the people of Israel from the famine and thus bring glory to His name. Joseph suffered terribly. Joseph did not know why he was suffering so much. One would look at it and think that this was all due to what his brothers did to him by sending him into slavery. Was God in Heaven saying, “Gee, I sure didn’t see that coming. I wonder what I can do to work this out? Absolutely not. God was working out a beautiful and perfect plan that would ultimately save the lives of all of Israel. That wasn’t God’s fall back plan. It was His original plan from the beginning. Just because Joseph suffered and did not understand why he suffered doesn’t mean that God was not loving. No, God was fully loving. He spared Joseph and everybody else in Israel. Did He risk? Absolutely not. He was in full control the entire time. Did He love? Absolutely. He saved all their lives. Did God allow, if not orchestrate the terrible suffering of Joseph? Absolutely. Was it for a purpose that brought about much greater good for all and brought God great glory? Without a shadow of a doubt – YES.
What does an open theist make of God’s plan “before the foundations of the world” to reconcile men to Himself through Christ crucified. It was all planned before man even fell into sin. So you see, there is just far too much in Scripture, practically all of Scripture, that clearly refutes any such notion of open theism where God does not know the entire future.
I think the reason why some would come to believe in open theism is because they feel that they need to understand God and all His ways. But this is dangerous. If we can fit God into our finite understanding, then don’t we in some way end up becoming equal to God? I’m so glad that His ways are so much higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts. Just because I can’t figure out on this side of Heaven why God allows and even orchestrates terrible suffering does not discredit Him as being a God who is fully loving and fully just. It simply means that He is beyond me and that He is doing something greater for His glory and my ultimate good than I am able to see.
It was just like my original comment. We must not bring God down to our human level. That can become idolatry. He sits above the Heavens. Psalm 2 “Why do the people plot in vain? Why do kings take their stand against the anointed one? He who sits in the Heavens laughs…” Why does He laugh? Because absolutely nothing or nobody can thwart His plan. Read Isaiah 40:10-31. If this does not portray a God who is in complete control of everything, then there just must be other reasons why somebody is really holding to an open theistic view of God.
And here is where we find our greatest hope and solace…not that He risks to love like humans, but that He does not need to risk because He is in complete control of our lives. And that He chooses to reveal Himself to us and bring us into the promise of eternal life with Him through faith in His son Jesus. Again, just like in my first post, we must guard against the danger of trying to figure God out just from this side of Heaven. This is not the end, people. Just because we go through suffering and pain now, and this is often orchestrated by God, He has a greater purpose for it than we are able to presently see. But one day, when we “take hold of the life that is truly life” we will see that His plan has been, is, and always will be perfect.
If my daughter dying from cancer at age 4 is all there is to this life, then yeah, it would be such a hard pill to swallow. I would wrestle with such questions about God’s goodness. But, if He reveals through His Word that though we suffer now in many things, our suffering will not be worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed, then I am able, by His grace and wonderful promises, to praise Him, trust Him and forever declare that He is good. Because as Scripture states, our lives here on this earth are but a vapor, a mist that is here for one minute and then gone. But we are not created simply for this life, but rather are created to be with the Lord for eternity. So, if God orchestrated, yes planned the whole thing, for Jesus to suffer and die on the cross at the hands of the romans and the jews, but has used this event to be the greatest demonstration of His love for us and through it has brought the greatest glory to the Son forever, why should we think it strange and unjust and just not of God to cause suffering in our own lives? Could it be that He is also doing something behind the scenes (Like Joseph, Job, Jesus, all the apostles who were martyred, etc) that will bring greater good and will bring God greater glory, which in turn will always be for our greater good in Heaven? Why would we think this to be so strange or cruel of God?
I don’t suppose to think that this reply will change the mind of Matt, but perhaps there are others who can be encouraged by the truth found in Scripture that clearly shows us that God is sovereign and in complete control of everything. And in this glorious truth is where we find such security and comfort even in our greatest suffering.
So, Matt did respond again and seek to twist Scripture to fit into this open theism view of God, but I realized that it was not beneficial for us to go back and forth on a comments page of somebody else’s blog. So, I decided to post on my own blog about the dangers of open theism. I hope you saw in my reply to him what was most central – the Word of God. Using experiences, popular thought, or anything else will often prove ineffective in defending the Gospel. The best defense of the Gospel is indeed the Gospel. Know it. Study it. Feel its texture. Know its historical accounts. See Christ in it from beginning to end. And use it as your sword in battle, whether it is in battle against satan and his ruthless attacks on the people of God or whether it is against the false heretical teachings that the Bible tells us to be on guard against, especially in the last days.
Whether it is open theism or any other distortion of the Scriptures, herein lies the problem…when we try to fit the Bible into our understanding of things rather than fitting our understanding of things (however limited that might be) into the Bible. Open theism becomes attractive to some because it brings to their finite minds a reasonable explanation for suffering and pain in the world. But at the expense of twisting the Scriptures and in turn removing God from the throne which He holds. He is all powerful, all knowing, all present, all sovereign. Scripture points to nothing else but this. Can we understand all of those things in relation to some of the things (such as mass suffering) that we see here on this earth? No, we cannot comprehend it. Why? Because we are finite and He is infinite. That is where we are simply called to walk by faith and not by sight. To the believer that has been born of the Spirit of God, we do this. Do we still struggle? Yes. Do we still question? Yes. But, if we are truly His, then His grace is given to us to persevere and trust Him. His grace is also given to us that enables us to worship Him and glorify Him even in our sufferings and trials that we don’t understand.
But the open theist, or other false teachers, are not at all satisfied by the fact that we can’t know all of God’s ways. They see it as a cop out answer to say that we just can’t fully reconcile all the suffering in the world around us with the fact that He is in complete control. They need to have all the answers. So, they force a view of God that fits in with their ability to understand. But like I stated above, the danger in doing this is that our “god” would no longer be anything greater than ourselves, so we might as well say that we are as equal to god. Open theism stating that God does not know the future offends absolutely everything that Scripture portrays God to be. It is a complete offense to His Kinship rule. It completely offends His sovereignty. It completely undermines His power over satan and all evil. It completely makes a mockery of the atonement. It mocks every one of God’s promises to the believer. for if God does not know, then how can He fully promise? So, the reality is that Open Theism is just not Biblical, plain and simple. And if we know our Bible, we can refute such heretical teaching from miles away.
So, if you are a Christian, I hope that you are encouraged to know the truth so that you can hold it up against anything that seeks to infiltrate your church or your own personal life. I hope that you will be a berean and hold every teaching up against Scripture before you allow it to have any influence on your life, whether it comes from pop culture, psychology, Christian magazines, or whatever. Some false teachings such as open theism are a no brainer in seeing how false they are, but there are others that are more subtle, and so we must be on our guard at all times. God has glorified Himself all throughout His Word. His Word is infallible. His Word will remain forever. Let’s not dare allow anything to alter such a precious, holy, and sacred gem. – Cody