Analysis of Cook / Enyart debate: "Is the Future Settled?" by Patrick Hines

The following are my notes from the debate from "The Narrow Mind" between Gene Cook and Bob Enyart on "Is the Future Settled?" I wrote down and numbered the major points of each speakers opening presentation and then inserted some of the rebuttals (and made some of my own since I agree with Pastor Gene). Undoubtedly, I missed some things said by both speakers. Please do not rely only on this - listen to the debate for yourself. This is what I heard on 1 hearing only.

Enyart's main arguments:
1. Is God creative - can he write a new song? Not new to us, but new to Him?

Response: Assumes God is temporal like man - as if he could decide next week to write a new song - as if He experiences a progression of time just as we do.

Enyart then said God can make a design and then implement it, like an author who writes and then *later* prints a book. He designed layout of garden of eden, and all the while is designing new flowers. If He can't write a new song, then all He could do is write a song written in eternity past.

Response: He is making God utterly time-bound, as if one minute he plans to do something and then 5 minutes later decides to do it. God created time, Bob. God is eternal - my goodness. Enyart's doctrine of God makes him just as subservient to and bound by time as man himself is. One could almost ask Enyart how old God is - if He really does things in *temporal* succession as is suggested by these questions.

2. Enyart says these are God's 5 fundamental attributes: Personal - has a will - relationship - good - loving. Said our doctrine of God is borrowed from pagan philosophy.

Response: What about just, holy, righteous? Also, Gene Cook's argument gave passages from Isaiah and many other passages - never quoted Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Augustine, or Aquinas.

3. Lamerson said: If future not settled, how can we trust God? Enyart: we trust him b/c he is good, faithful, promised us salvation, and committment to righteousness.

Response: Yes, but we have no confidence that He is *able* to make good on that promise of salvation if the *unknown* libertarian choices of men *can* thwart His intentions and plans, which, according to Openness theology, they often do.

6. Why pray if future is settled and God cannot change it? If prayer can't alter the future, why do it at all?

Response: Because our prayers themselves are means which God decrees and uses to bring about His settled ends. This question assumes that we can somehow know both the future and *how* (i.e. what means) it's ends will be brought about. We do not have this knowledge and therefore we cannot live as if we do - nor can we answer questions as if we do.

Enyart actually said that he prays that God would not "give up" on people.

Response: This is really remarkable to me. Does this mean if we don't pray He won't give up on them that He *will* give up on them? Does this not imply that God will actually refuse to be gracious to people unless us sinful men coax it out of Him by prayer? Do we browbeat God into being merciful? Answer: No, God is merciful for His namesake - Ephesians 1:6 - and to the praise of the glory of His grace - Not because sinners bothered Him enough to bestow it upon us. Enyart's God really is different from ours. I can't imagine praying, "Lord God, I know you're probably about to, but please don't give up on my children..." No, I pray to a God who is *strong* to save: "Lord God, I ask of you that you would save my children because you *alone* are able to save them!"

7. When God humbled himself, he became flesh - this was a change. He lost omniscience - Matthew 24:36 'of that date and hour, no one knows, nor the Son.' Did God, the Son, humble himself by diminishing his amount of knowledge? He gave up the quantitative attributes, not the qualitative ones. He gave up his glory which he had with the Father prior to the incarnation. He gave up *some* of it. Phil 2:7 - Christ humbled Himself.

Response: Not a change in his divine nature. I think this is an unbiblical distinction - between qualitative and quantitative attributes. These were *laid aside*, not diminished by nature. Heb 13:8 - Jesus the same yesterday, today, and forever.

8. Is God free or is He trapped in a settled future? Prior to the crucifixion, was the Son able to pray to the Father to send angels to save him from that hour?

Response: First question assumes, again, that God is time-bound - as if He could *unwillingly* be trapped by a settled future and *actually want* to change it and be unable to. Second question: Yes, God knows all things contingently as well as actually. But all things that take place do so according to His decree and foreordination. Nevetheless, He knows all possibilities as well ("woe to you Bethsaida... if the miracles had been done in you, you would have repented long ago..."). Jesus could have prayed for legions of angels to save Him, but then that would have meant: no cross, no church, no salvation, failed prophecies, etc. So, it *would* not have happened, but Jesus *could* have done this (i.e. he had the natural capacity to do so).

Response: Excellent analogy used by Cook - OT says not a bone would be broken. Were Jesus' bones breakable? From the standpoint of humanity? Yes. From the standpoint of God's decree? No. Enyart never tried to recover from this point other than to reassert (again), "love is greater than prophecy..."

10. Impassibility - God grieved, Christ saved us for the joy set before us.

Response: Does the Holy Spirit get depressed and hang His head in grief? Is God actually upset, or is this using human language to communicate God's attitude towards sin? Given what Scripture teaches *when it is actually addressing God's nature, i.e. God as He is in Himself* as opposed to His relating to men, certainly not. How else is God supposed to express his attitude towards sin?

11. Jeremiah - does God actually forget sins? "I will remember your sins no more."

Response: Did God forget who Adam was and that he sinned in the garden? Also, how can God inspire Paul to write in 1 Cor 10 that Israel's sins are an example for us not to follow? Enyart actually said in response: That he thinks 1 Cor 10 is a figure of speech - but isn't that Cook's whole point? That it is a figure of speech? Enyart then actually said: God wants to blot out and forget our sins b/c he's a person and doesn't want to rehearse child porn in His mind for all eternity.

Response: God does not blot out our sins because He doesn't like thinking about child-pornography. He does so because He has chosen to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon us.

Cooks' main arguments

1. Isaiah 41:21 - God differentiated from idols by knowledge of what is to come. No response from Enyart.

2. Isaiah 46:9 - assertion that God declares end from beginning. Names Cyrus 175 yrs before his birth - didn't his parents have free-will on what to name him? How could God have known this.

Enyart's response: God *influenced* them to name him - just like he *influenced* Joseph and Zecharias to name their kids Jesus and John. Then Enyart actually compared God's declaring the end from the beginning to FDR's assertion in 1941 after Pearl Harbor on Dec 8th that America would achieve absolute victory. This was, in Enyart's words, and "extraordinary prophecy" on FDR's part - then he actually said, "does this mean FDR had exhaustive foreknowledge? No, he merely had the power to make this prediction."

My response: The Holy God, the creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, the One who sustains all things by the Word of His power, declaring the end from the beginning is compared to a US President's prediction that our nation will win a war? This analogy is invalid and is somewhat irreverent. There is no parallel between the military power behind FDR's "prophecy" that we will press on to 'absolute victory' and God's "declaring the end from the beginning."

3. Jesus knew Peter would deny him 3 times before the cock crowed? Again, how many *unknown* free-will decisions went into this?

Enyart's response: Peter could have repented after the 2nd denial and God would have been pleased. Cook asked, "Would Jesus have been wrong then?" To which Enyart replied (as he did over and over again to this same question): "Love triumphs over prophecy... b/c of 1 Cor 13's assertion that love is greater than prophecy."

Response: That is utterly a-contextual argumentation. It *would* make Jesus a false prophet. Furthermore, the context of 1 Cor 13 has absolutely, positively nothing to do with the application being made by Enyart. The passage is not addressing the nature of OT prophecy, it is comparing prophecy in the local church (which is akin to preaching) with love in the local church.

4. How did Zechariah know the price Judas would betray Jesus for? Again, how many *unknown* free-will decisions went into this?

This wasn't addressed by Enyart.

5. Psalm 139:15-16 - All the days that were ordained for me when yet there was not one of them.

Enyart said the days referred to here are only the days we are in the womb itself. Yet, the passage itself says, "And in your book they *all* were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." I'd like to know if any Christian exegete in the entire history of the Christian Church has ever walked away from this passage believing that what was being referred to was only the days of our gestation in the womb of our mothers.

6. Prov 16:1, 4, 9 - even wicked for day of evil, mind of man plans his ways but Lord directs steps.

This was unaddressed.

7. Prov 21:1 - king's heart is in hand of Lord - He turns it wherever he wishes. Where is his libertarian free-will?


8. Paul on Damascus road - where is his libertarian free-will?


9. Acts 1:7 - God has fixed (settled) time and epochs.


10. Acts 2:22-23 - delivered by pre-determined plan, you nailed to a cross.


11. Acts 4:27 - Herod and Pilate along with gentiles and peoples of Israel - did whatever your hand and purpose predestined to occur. How many *unknown* free-will decisions went into this? How could it be predestined by God then?


12. Two bad presuppositions:
* libertarian free-will (unbiblical, pagan concept). Atheists, Mormons, JWs believe in this. Free from what? From God's influence? Man has a will - but it is in bondage: John 8 - all who commit sin are slaves of sin. We are not free. Romans 7:14-25. What about after salvation? Eph 2:10 - God ordains our good works. Phil 2:12-13 - God works in us to work according to His good pleasure. Again - what are we free from? God?

* Failure to understand anthropomorphic language - God uses human language to describe disposition and relationship to human behavior. We understand this kind of category. Ps 17:8 - apple of they eye, shadow of wings - God doesn't have wings. Number 23:19 - not a man that he should lie or repent. 1 Sam 15:29 - God will not change His mind. He does not repent as men do. But he does use anthropomorphic language to interact with humans. Why does God say he was sorrow he made man (or made Saul king) - showing disposition towards man's behavior. Jonah - same thing. God threatens wrath against all sin at all time.

13. Eph 1:11 - after God's will - not man's will.

14. Romans 11:33.

15. God the Son loves God the Father in eternity past - and is not free to do otherwise. Enyart said the Son *could* have hated the Father. Then he said our perspective is that the Son loves the Father *only* because He is in an unalterable state of affairs and can't do otherwise. Again, the assumption that love isn't real without libertarian free-will - this assumption drives the whole theology and is never questioned or proven.

HERE'S A MAJOR KEY TO THIS DEBATE AS I SEE IT: The Open Theist must prove *from Scripture* that love isn't real apart from the ability to do otherwise.

16. Can God lie? Enyart said God deceives the wicked. Like when we fought the Nazis - it was good to deceive them. God said, 'lie to the king and tell him he's going to win.'

My Final Thoughts: If Enyart's God really is the true God, I'll sleep much better knowing that God is powerful enough to make cocks crow, and is even able to influence the naming of important children like Jesus, Cyrus, and John the Baptist. Can God take care of my sin problem? Well, I guess He'll give it His best shot... and might fail... Maybe God will be able to rework it with plan B. Then again, plan B might turn out to be just as much of a meaningless disaster as plan A was. Since God is, in openness theology, just as time-bound as we are, the old saying holds true: "only time will tell."

Sadly, the vast majority of Cook's opening statement, especially the numerous passages of Scripture read, went unaddressed by Enyart.