"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, December 14, 2009

God: Lacking in Foreknowledge & Lying

Finally! Yesterday I finished The Woman Who Named God by Charlotte Gordon. I enjoyed some things about this book while others raised red flags and made me kind of iffy on this author. I guess any time a book causes me to have harder feelings against God or a man of faith such as Abraham the author gets categorized this way in my mind. Maybe that's my own immaturity and lack of wanting to see things differently. Do I want to view God and Abraham with rose-colored glasses instead of seeing them as they (possibly) more likely are?


Anyway, what do you think of the idea that God's "foreknowledge of events is not always complete"? At least twice the author presented God in this way. First in the situation of Sodom where it seemed God wasn't sure if He could find 50 - or even 10 - righteous people. And then again when he tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac. In the case of the latter event and based on Genesis 22:12,

He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me," (emphasis mine)

Ms. Gordon writes,

"God underwent His own suspenseful ordeal: Would Abraham obey Him? Was He a worthy partner in their joint enterprise? Second, God needed to test Abraham's loyalties, exhibiting a strange insecurity as though He were a jealous lover doubting His beloved." (pg. 258)

In the chapter where she talks about the angels coming to visit Abraham with news that Sarah would have a son, the author says God misquoted or twisted Sarah's words although when I read the words from Genesis 18, I don't see that God's words were a twist at all. (pages 185+) Ms. Gordon said God lied, and while not everyone thinks small lies are necessarily bad, the Bible declares God cannot lie. At least Paul writes this to Titus (1:2). Or maybe Paul means only when God promises or makes an oath such as the writer of Hebrews declares in 6:18.

So what you do think? Is God limited in His knowledge of future events? Are there some aspects where He doesn't know what His creation will do because He offers them freedom to make choices (e.g. Abraham: to sacrifice or not to sacrifice). Does God lie on occasion? Are the New Testament verses about God not lying dependent upon whether or not He made an oath or promise?

To read more from this book, please see the following posts. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your opinion of things!

Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael & Marriage Choices

Abraham, Sarah, Canaanites & Ancient Egypt

"Rape in the Palace" -- Abraham & Sarah in Egypt

Relating Hagar to Jesus' Birth


Niki said...

God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last. If He doesn't know something it would only be because He chose not to know, for whatever reason. You know how most people say they don't want to know when they're going to die? Maybe God likes some things to be a surprise, even for Himself.

As for God lying. The Bible says that "all liars" will have their part in the lake of fire. God would have to send Himself to hell if He told lies. He is not a hypocrite or a liar.

Sarah said...

I think God does know the future in advance, and these quoted words of His are just narrative devices not to be taken literally.

I don't know how the author thought God lied or twisted Sarah's words, but I think she's reading way too much into the text. I am sure God would have known what was in Sarah's heart. She is making a rather pointless literary criticism and I'm willing to bet she hasn't read it in the original language either.

Amber said...

*rolls eyes* Thank God! Now I can stop chewing on the furniture every time you post from this lady! :)

Now, on to the questions:

No, I don't believe that God ever has incomplete knowledge. He's omniscient. (Now, the question, could He make it so He doesn't know something beforehand...I wanna say 'no', not from lack of power to do such a thing, but because...why would He want to do something like that?)

My take on the whole asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test thing is this: Free will isn't any good if there aren't any options.

If God just skipped ahead to the end of all our choices, we'd never get to live at all. It would have been, *boom* Adam and Eve. *boom* End of Times. He might've even skipped the whole Creation thing, since He knew what a morass *that* was going to turn into in a few million years. (Should have kept the dino's around!)

So, yes, God knew that Abraham would choose rightly, but He still had to give him the chance to make a different choice, because otherwise, what's the point of free will? God wants us to freely *choose* Him, not have the choice forced on us.

It always reminds me of a theme from Jacqueline Carey's Kusheline Cycle: "'Then I shall stand at the crossroads,' he said quietly. 'And choose, and choose again, wherever your path shall lead. I protect and serve.'"

God cannot lie. Period, end of discussion. Lies are deceit and therefore the opposite of truth, which is a part of what God is. I reread the passage and the angel restated what Sarah said, but he didn't *lie* about what she said, he just didn't quote her, verbatim. So...author fail.

Achelois said...

How can people blaspheme like that?! I never understood why Muslims call God the best 'plotter' (as in deceiver - Quran 3:54). God would not plot even against plotters! He wouldn't lie even to the liars.

It is not whether He can lie or not, the question is does He *need* to lie to mere human beings?

Gordon should know that she was able to write what she wrote also because God willed it. He allowed it. And oh yes, He knows what she has written :)

Amber, you are not the only one chewing on furniture. My arm-rest is gone :)

Unknown said...

Wow, apparently I've been busy. I think this sounds like a great book, I can't wait to find and read it. :)

I do not know if God's foreknowledge is complete. I do think that sometimes the Bible gets twisted because people like to believe that it is and they can't handle when the Bible says otherwise. I've heard pastors and teachers add to the Bible that "God knew he wouldn't find any in Sodom, of course", but it doesn't say that! Another commenter asked how people could blaspheme like the woman who wrote this book, but I just see her asking honest questions and thinking through these things. I want to know how PASTORS can blaspheme the way they do in adding verses to the Bible to make themselves feel more comfy with the passage and stop people asking questions. I don't have the answers, but I love the questions and feel we can't have enough of people like Gordon (from what I know of her just from reading this entry, I guess that's not necessarily a complete sample. :D).

Susanne said...

Niki, loved your comment and, I believe, that's *exactly* how I feel about God. That's why this book made me be like "Huh?! God doesn't know? God lies?" :-O Thanks for speaking up and leaving a comment on this post!

Sarah, great points. This book made me go back and reread some of the Genesis accounts of Abraham and I was often puzzled even then where Ms. Gordon was coming from because my Bible didn't read the way she was talking.

Amber, good points about free will and choices being necessary for that. The world would be pretty neat if dinos were still around, eh?

Oh, I'm glad you agree about God never lying and "author fail." Love when you write that. :)

Achelois, Muslims call God a "plotter"? Hmmmm. I wonder in what ways does He plot. I had a Muslim friend who seemed greatly offended one day when I told him God cannot lie. I quoted it from the Bible, but he said we should never say God can't do anything. I said, "We're talking about a Holy God who says He cannot lie," yet still he found this greatly disrespectful which I did not intend AT ALL.

Great point: WHY would God have to lie to humans?

Thank goodness God is merciful and allows us to sin and/or write things about Him without zapping us instantly.

Sanil, you wrote:

"I want to know how PASTORS can blaspheme the way they do in adding verses to the Bible to make themselves feel more comfy with the passage and stop people asking questions"

and that's a great point. My pastor often tells us that just as it's a sin to take away from the Bible, it's also a sin to ADD TO IT. He says this to point out legalistic people -- you have to wear your hair a certain length or you must dress this way or do this or do that. Btw, he is Baptist (at a interdenominational church) so they aren't ALL bad. ;)

I'm glad you like what I've shared about this book. I hope you read it and post your own thoughts about it here or on your blog. I'll be keeping watch for them! :-)

Enjoyed all the comments, Ladies!

Sorry, A&A, about your furniture. :-D

Unknown said...

" Btw, he is Baptist (at a interdenominational church) so they aren't ALL bad. ;)"

Haha! I know, I mostly love my Baptist church, I just don't agree with them on much. Great people, though, and at least the group I study with now from the Baptist church are starting to be open to questions and don't mind when I come in with my weirdo liberal ideas. :D