Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Refutation of John Feinberg, Part II

I’m back once more to tackle another portion of John Feinberg’s response to Bruce Reichenbach’s article titled “God Limits His Power.” Feinberg goes straight at Reichenbach and calls for scriptural justification of his view:

“Another concern is Reichenbach’s claim that God limited his power in order to give us freedom (contra-causal, of course). However, as with Pinnock, I WAIT IN VAIN FOR A VERSE THAT SAYS GOD DID SUCH A THING” (John Feinberg, “Response to Bruce Reichenbach,” from the book “Predestination and Free Will,” page 125).

As in the last post on Feinberg, I’ll give him the answers he seeks so desperately.
First, there is something in the Biblical account regarding God and His power and Him limiting it for man. The passage is Genesis 1:26-28---

26 Then God said, "Let Us (A) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. (B) They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, [a] and the creatures that crawl [b] on the earth." (C) 27 So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. (D) 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, (E) and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls [c] on the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

This is the majestic passage of Genesis where God decides to create a creation just like Himself! God’s first words are, “let Us make man IN OUR IMAGE, ACCORDING TO OUR LIKENESS.” Not only would man bear the image of God (Genesis 9:6), but man would also be LIKE GOD, similar to the Lord in many ways.

After God decides to give man His image and His likeness (here is the only time God does that while forming creation), He then says, “THEY WILL RULE…the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

Scripture clearly shows us God’s Rule:

He said: LORD God of our ancestors, are You not the God who is in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can stand against You. (2 Chronicles 20:6, HCSB).

LORD, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone. (Isaiah 26:13)

See, the Lord GOD comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. (Isaiah 40:10)

Because of God’s rule, man was given rule over the earth. And this verse is where we see it:

“God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, fill the earth, AND SUBDUE IT” (Gen. 1:28. HCSB).

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the word “subdue” as:

1 : to conquer and bring into subjection : vanquish
2 : to bring under control especially by an exertion of the will : curb
3 : to bring (land) under cultivation

Looking at the following definitions, the one that stands out to me the most is definition #2—“To bring under control ESPECIALLY BY AN EXERTION OF THE WILL.” Adam and Eve would use their will to cultivate the land and conquer creation.
The word in the Greek for “subdue” here is “katakurieusate,” meaning “to be lord over.” So when the Lord tells man to subdue the earth, He is telling man to “be lord over” the earth. In man’s rule, then, he is acting as a “lord” (lowercase), having been given dominion over the earth by the “LORD” (uppercase). Because dominion over the earth was given to man, this is a limit of God’s power—but it is a limit God placed on Himself because it seemed good to Him to do so. It is of God’s own good pleasure.

But there’s another instance where we see man in the likeness of God—and that is in naming creation. God names creation in Genesis 1:

1 In the beginning (A) God created the heavens and the earth. (B)
2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, (C) darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (D) 3 Then God said, "Let there be light," (E) and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and He called the darkness "night." Evening came, and then morning: the first day. 6 Then God said, "Let there be an expanse [b] between the waters, separating water from water." (F) 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. (G) And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." [c] Evening came, and then morning: the second day. 9 Then God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, (H) and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land "earth," and He called the gathering of the water "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds." (I) And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it, according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 Evening came, and then morning: the third day. 14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs (J) for festivals and for days and years. (K) 15 They will be lights in the expanse of the sky to provide light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to have dominion over the day and the lesser light to have dominion over the night—as well as the stars. (Genesis 1:1-16, HCSB)

God names the “day,” “night,” “sky,” “earth,” and seas.
The LORD names all these things. He does so because He is the One who created them. And in the same way, Adam, acting as “lord” (lowercase), names creation:

19 So the LORD God formed out of the ground each wild animal and each bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. (S) And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man [m] no helper was found who was like him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, (T) and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. 22 Then the LORD God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. (U) 23 And the man said:
This one, at last, is bone of my bone,
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called woman,
for she was taken from man. (Genesis 2:19-23, HCSB)

Mankind, then, was given the power that came with being made “lord” over the earth.
We know from the early chapters of Genesis that God gave man power in the Garden—man was God’s crowning creation, the head of everything under the sun. Adam was treated as God’s right-hand man, placed in the Garden “to work and to keep it.” Yes, man had a lot of power in bearing the image and likeness of God: but with it also came responsibility. And when Adam and Eve sinned that day in the Garden (Genesis 3), we find that they sinned not so much because they weren’t pleased with their environment—but because they wanted more. Examine carefully what the serpent says to Eve:

4 "No! You will not die," the serpent said to the woman. (C) 5 "In fact, God knows that when [a] you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, [b] knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:4-5, HCSB)

Adam and Eve wanted to be “like God.” They were already LIKE HIM—but they weren’t GOD HIMSELF! They wanted that desperately, so much so that they took the power of choice that He gave them for good and made it bad. God never tried to enslave them and force them to do anything, but they now wanted to enslave God and force Him to yield to them! God gave them some power and they wanted more—that was the problem that day in the Garden.

But notice that, when God delivers punishment, He honors the choice Adam and Eve made:

17 And He said to Adam, "Because you listened to your wife's voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'Do not eat from it':
The ground is cursed because of you. (L)
You will eat from it by means of painful labor [e]
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field. (M
19 You will eat bread [f] by the sweat of your brow
until you return to the ground, (N)
since you were taken from it. For you are dust,
and you will return to dust." (Genesis 3:17-19, HCSB)

When Adam chooses to sin, God does not override Adam’s mistake or take his free will away from him. God allows Adam to sin, and, because He chooses to limit His power, allows Adam’s decision to stand. But notice what God says to Adam:

“The ground is cursed BECAUSE OF YOU…”

Adam bore responsibility for what happened in the Garden; and why? because God gave him the power of free will and free choice; and, as the old adage goes, “With power comes responsibility.”

Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden was about gaining more power; and God, although limiting His power in granting choice to man, was not about to give up all His power and have His creation become His equal.

For God to allow Adam and Eve’s choice of sin to stand is in stark contrast to the way God created the Garden:

31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31, HCSB)
God made everything; God had the power to erase or remove Adam and Eve’s sin. And yet, He did not. He let their sin stand and removed them from the Garden, giving them the physical and spiritual death they had chosen through their sin. But none of this was the way God wanted it to be. He wanted mankind to live in the Garden happily with Him, to commune with Him, to be in relationship with Him, side by side. However, what He got instead was two ungrateful humans, who stained everything He did for them.

But if God could have stopped it all, why didn’t He? Surely Feinberg isn’t gonna argue that God isn’t all-powerful, is he? Therefore, if the Lord allowed Adam and Eve to choose to depart from the place of delight (“eden” means “delight”), then either God wasn’t powerful enough to undo the sin—OR, the Lord limited Himself by granting them the choice—and He wasn’t gonna renege on His granting of choice (and thus power) to His two creatures. I will be bold enough to say that the latter is true.

Genesis 3 is not the only place where the Lord limits Himself; Christ Jesus limits Himself in the Incarnation. Have you read the words of Philippians 2?

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God (M) as something to be used for His own advantage. [a] 7 Instead He emptied Himself (N) by assuming the form of a slave, (O) taking on the likeness of men. (P) And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, HCSB)

The Lord Jesus came to earth as a man, having taken on human flesh. And while He was on earth, Scripture tells us that Christ subjected Himself to the earthly authorities, even so far as to suffer physical pain in the Crucifixion. The Lord refused to come off of the Cross, although He had the power to.

John Feinberg asked for Scriptural proof; and I supplied it here. The fact that sin is allowed to run rampant in humanity is caused by two things: either the Lord; or the choice He gave man. My answer? The choice God gave man is the CAUSE of sin’s debilitating effects on humanity.

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