Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. II: "All the World's a Stage"

“If God knows what will come to pass, does that mean that all testings IN HISTORY are pointless? I DON’T THINK SO. God has not created the world just to be known in terms of what would be if tests were given. HE CREATED THE WORLD TO BE ACTUALIZED IN HISTORY. That is, he wills not just to foreknow, but to know by observation and experience. That is the point of creating a real world, rather than just knowing one that might be” (John Piper, “Answering Greg Boyd’s Openness of God Texts”; at the site; quoted by Steven C. Roy, “How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, page 181).

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”

- William Shakespeare, As You Like It Act 2, scene 7, 139–143

According to Solomon C. Rivas,

“History relates with theology because the latter affirms that God reveals Himself in and is even the Lord of history. Besides, God concerns on the salvation of humanity that takes place in history (salvation history). If theology divorces from history, the exodus event and the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ can just be considered as mythical in a common but not in a technical sense” (Solomon C. Rivas, “The Interwoven Relationship of Religion, Theology, and Ethics with Secular Knowledge,” page 24; see

A theology of history is all about the “theos” (God) coming into history, as well as God’s interaction with man and use of history to reveal Himself to mankind. History is the spatial location upon which God and man interact and have relationship.

In the quote above, John Piper attempts to show Greg Boyd (Open Theist) that he is incorrect about God’s foreknowledge nullifying genuine choices in time. I would agree with John Piper. Foreknowledge or knowledge beforehand about something does not eliminate genuine choice. Even if someone knows what another person will do, the person who makes the decision still has to choose. They still get to make a choice, apart from what the other person knows. Knowledge is not necessarily causal (although many Calvinists assume it is).

However, the same John Piper above that seems to emphasize genuine relationship between God and man in time is the same John Piper that seems to advocate the election of some to salvation in eternity past. According to Dave Hunt:

“Once I had thought that I agreed with at least one Calvinist point, the perseverance of the saints. I learned, however, that this fifth point of TULIP offers an unbiblical basis for eternal security; that of being one of the elect. Piper and his pastoral staff write, ‘We believe in...THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE ELECT’” (Dave Hunt, “Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views.” Colorado Spring: Multnomah Books, 2004, page 392; Hunt quotes John Piper, “TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.” Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God Ministries, 1997, page 24).

In Piper’s belief, only those whom God picked for salvation are the elect...and only they are eternally secure. If God did not pick a person for salvation, then they might be secure today...but in truth, they only have a temporary security (and thus, a temporary faith). They will not believe forever, and they will fall away because they were never chosen for salvation to begin with.

How then, can Piper hold to both genuine choice in time and eternal predetermined choices in eternity past? I do not have the answer. All I know is that it seems impossible to hold to both of these. I don’t understand quite how someone can be held responsible for their unbelief if they were never “chosen” for salvation from the start. I don’t understand how the damned can make themselves believe over against God’s decree (which intended to leave them in their sins and ordain them to eternal damnation).

But the point I’m making here is that, if one holds to eternal security (as Piper does) and argues for genuine responsibility and God’s genuine interaction with mankind (which Piper seems to, i.e., "the world is actualized in history), he or she is completely contradictory in their argument. Why? Because, if God has predetermined everything that happens, then he cannot responsibly blame man for his own damnation (since God predetermined it without regard to man’s unbelief).

What does this do to a theology of history? God and man do not genuinely interact in the time-space locale; rather, man “play-acts” his predetermined God-given role, and God may have a genuine response...but He is alone in genuineness. In this scheme, God is responding to puppets whose very own strings He is pulling...

If one believes that God has ordained history as a real passage of time in which God has real interaction with mankind, then “eternal security” cannot fit within one’s theology. Rather, I suggest that one adhere to “conditional security,” also known as “temporal security.” Why is this a viable alternative to the revered Doctrine of Eternal Security? I will get into that in my next post.

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