In an earlier post, I posted eight reasons that I believe show that the Bible teaches that God has exhaustive future knowledge. Andrew, a friend and the author of the blog Theo Geek, stated that my reasoning was completely unsound. While Andrew is a friend and a Christian, we don't always see eye to eye on matters of theology (which, of course, disproves the common contention of skeptics that Christians don't think for themselves), and I wanted to take up the issues more singularly in depth. Since responding to all of his arguments in a single post would be a monumental task (going well beyond the length of the typical blog), I will start with this first issue and see where it goes.
My first argument: God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13). If God doesn't know something, then he can learn something. If he is a learning God then he becomes different as the result of having learned something and He is not the same yesterday, today and forever.
The eight arguments given are completely unsound
1. Hebrews 13:8 says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." In context, it is talking how we ought to continue following the Christian teaching that teaches us to imitate Christ's way of life, and not be swayed by new and strange teachings that tell us to live some other way. The point is that the way Jesus Christ lived, and they way we should live in imitation of him cannot suddenly change.
So, it is not talking about knowledge like was claimed.
Furthermore, it is not advocating immutability in any strict sense - if Jesus Christ was truly immutable then he could have never become man, could never have grown up, could never have died, for all these things require change. I can imagine saying, using the same logic, "if Jesus Christ is the same everyday, he cannot [be] alive one day and dead the next, or incarnate one day and not incarnate the nextÂ etc." (some of the Greek philosophers actually used this to object to Christianity, because they believed in a totally immutable God who could truly never change, and thus who could not become incarnate) such logic is clearly flawed and not at all what the verse is talking about, and so the idea that this implies immutable and unchangeable foreknowledge is clearly laughable.
Personally, I think that Andrew needs to be a bit more careful in how he addresses friends in a public arena. It may be that I am wrong, but is it "laughable"? Let's see:
First, the Hebrews 13 passage is not as constricted as Andrew contends. I agree that the passage argues that "we ought to continue following the Christian teaching that teaches us to imitate Christ's way of life, and not be swayed by new and strange teachings," but then it says that we should do these things because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." (v. 8) In other words, Jesus doesn't change, i.e., he is immutable. Is this a unique view of this passage? Hardly.
Several commentators acknowledge that this verse shows God's immutability or his non-changing nature, such as Matthew Henry, John Gill, John Nelson Darby, John Wesley, and the editors of the editors of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible which is sitting on my desk. Thus, it appears that most commentators would agree that this verse speaks of the immutability of Jesus Christ, aka, God. But what does it mean to be immutable? Clearly, it does not mean that God is perfectly static because we can see that there was some change in Jesus. For example, Jesus became man and then He returned to the Father with a glorified body. Obviously, the verse is not intended to mean that God is absolutely static in his changelessness.
This verse is speaking of His divine nature; as John Gill notes: "[Jesus] is unchangeable in his person, perfections, and essence, as God; and in his love to his people; and in the fullness of his grace, and in the efficacy of his blood, and in the virtue of his sacrifice and righteousness." This is not some stilted "any change whatsoever disproves this verse." Obviously, Andrew doesn't believe that this is the understanding since he is arguing that this verse is much more limited in scope than I am claiming. So, since we are both in agreement that the verse is not to be read in a stilted fashion, the question is: what does it mean for Jesus to be unchangeable.
It is my contention that one of the things that is unchangeable must be his knowledge. My argument is stated in the original post: if God does not know the future exhaustively, then he is learning the future as well. As anyone who has gone off to college and actually taken the time to learn the material can tell you learning changes a person. Learning and change are inseparable, learning changes you; change requires learning, they are two aspects of the same continuum. To put my argument in a syllogistic form:
Premise One: If God does not have complete knowledge of the future, then he learns.
Premise Two: If a person learns, then that person is changed by what he has learned.
Conclusion: If God does not have complete knowledge of the future, then He is changed by what He has learned.
The argument is logically valid, so any argument must be with the premises. Since the premises seem fairly obvious, the argument appears sound and supports the inference.
But the response should be: no one disputes that God is not changed by His learning, the objection is that this type of change (learning) is not one of the characteristics that need to be immutable for Jesus to be "the same yesterday, today and forever." After all, I have just acknowledged that this verse is not to be a stilted reading of the text where any possible change (e.g., when God created He became a creator but wasn't a creator before that time) represents a violation of the verse. So why is this one of the characteristics that must be immutable?
The reason is that if God learns, then God is subject to change in his essential characteristics. Here's how: have you ever looked at the drawing of the old woman or young girl? When you first look at the drawing, you only see the young girl or the old woman (I saw the young girl, myself), but once you see the other, it is impossible to undo that change. You now see both sides and you can never go back to the single viewpoint again. You are changed as a result. Was the change significant? Not in this case, but learning can result in very significant changes. Changes can be as large as paradigm shifts wherein your entire worldview can change as the result of something you learn. A person who first learns about and accepts Jesus and His Gospel has a paradigm shift that can result in a whole new world view and cause a tremendous change in every aspect of that person's life.
Let's suppose that God is a learning God. Is it possible that He could learn something? If the people who espouse the idea that God is a learning God are correct, then God learned that man would sin only when Adam and Eve actually sinned. Until that time, He didn't know that they would sin although He could have calculated that the odds that they would sin would be extremely high. Would the actual occurrence of the fall becoming a reality instead of a mere probability have been a paradigm shift for God? It could have been such a shift because until it actually happened, God didn't know it would happen. Perhaps he thought it might, but He didn't (and couldn't) know. It could have been a revelation for Him, and He could have changed His entire approach to humanity because the contingency that He hadn't fully expected would happen had, in fact, happened causing Him to see humanity in a new light. He might have no longer seen humanity as the young woman but the old hag, and He could never go back to seeing the young woman only. God could have changed in His viewpoint and how he would have approached humanity.
Now, if God could change how He would approach humanity by this event, then other events could also change how He approached humanity. But if that were the case, then what becomes of the promise of Hebrews 13? Hebrews 13 argues that we should act in a certain way because God's approach to us is unchanging! Hebrews 13:5 says: "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,'" -- in other words, we should continue to obey His law because God has said He will not change His approach to you. Yet, if God can change his approach to humanity by entering into new paradigms of understanding as the result of having learned new things, then we can have no faith in His promises. But we need not fear Him forsaking or deserting us because we know that He is the same yesterday, today and forever -- His approach to us and His essential attributes will endure forever.
Could I be wrong? Of course, I could be wrong. My argument necessarily speculates about what God "may have" or "could have" thought or how He could have been changed as the result of events on earth -- and since I do not see where God has given us any clear reason to believe that He would have, in fact, changed because of these events, there is nothing in the Bible that will necessarily support my assertions. But is my argument "laughable?" Are my arguments "completely unsound" as Andrew contends? Only if you want to score points by rhetoric rather than substance.