Monthly Archives: May 2016

Open Theism on the Internet

Open theism is a contemporary view of God that’s created controversy among evangelical Protestant academics. According to it, in giving us free will God limited His control over and knowledge of the future and thus the future is partly open. It has been opposed by many evangelical scholars, some even labelling it heresy. In the fall of 2012 I created this blog to explain open theism to my family and friends.

In my first post, An Introduction to Open Theism I recommended these websites on open theism, the first two supporting and the third opposing open theism:
Open Theism Information Site [http://opentheism.info/open-theism/]
ReKnew – Open Theism [http://reknew.org/topic/open-theism-essays]
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – Open Theism [https://carm.org/open-theism]

The second of those is still available and useful but cannot be accessed by the above link. ReKnew is the website of Greg Boyd, the author of God of the Possible. It contains several items on open theism, one of which I especially recommend to anyone wanting to know what open theism is, A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View. The other items are more advanced. To access them go to ReKnew – Browse by Topic and click on the links under “Open Theism.”

Alternatively, to get an overview of open theism, I recommend reading the descriptions of it in Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Theopedia, and Wikipedia. Their addresses are:
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Open Theism
Theopedia – Open Theism
Wikipedia – Open Theism

Since I posted “An Introduction to Open Theism,” many other websites and blogs about or containing significant material about open theism have appeared or at least become known to me. My favourite so far is the open theism section of the website of John Sanders, the author of The God Who Risks. It contains these sections: Open Theism Home, containing an explanation of open theism and a timeline of it throughout history; Books on Openness Theology, Books with an Open Theistic Perspective, and Articles on Open Theism. I’d be glad to send readers links to other websites and blogs on open theism that I have bookmarked.

A few years ago I joined Facebook so that I could participate in its Open View Theists group, and after joining it I found that it hosts some other open theist groups. So far I’ve joined just one of them, the Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group. The two groups are administered by Michael Faber and William Lance Huget, respectively. I recommend both to anyone who wishes to learn more about and/or discuss open theism. Their addresses are:
Open View Theists
Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal

I’d appreciate your telling me in a comment on this post of other websites or blogs about or with significant material on open theism.

Paul Shipwrecked

Paul ended his third missionary journey by going to Jerusalem to bring an offering to the church there from the churches he’d founded on his missionary journeys. Some Jews from Asia, thinking he’d taken a Gentile into the temple, stirred up a crowd against him. He was rescued by Roman soldiers stationed near the temple and a few days later, on their commander’s learning of a plot by some fanatical Jews to assassinate Paul, taken by military escort to Caesarea, where the governor (Felix) had his headquarters. Felix couldn’t find anything wrong with Paul but, hoping for a bribe from him, kept him imprisoned. Similarly the successor to Felix, Festus, couldn’t find anything wrong with Paul but, fearing that Festus might turn him over to the Jews to do them a favour, Paul appealed to have his case heard before the emperor, which was his right as a Roman citizen.

In this article I’ll consider the part of Paul’s journey to Rome described in Acts 27:1-28:10. In summarizing and commenting on it, I’ll divide it into four parts: setting sail for Rome, the storm, the shipwreck, and Malta. The Blue Letter Bible gives a map of the complete voyage at Paul’s Journey to Rome (https://www.blueletterbible.org/images/Acts/imageDisplay/#s=maps_paul4_b).

Setting Sail for Rome

Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a Roman centurion named Julius. With them were Luke (”we”) and Aristarchus, a companion of Paul from Thessalonica. Boarding a small coastal vessel at Caesarea, they sailed northwest for ports along the southern coast of Asia Minor. At one of those ports, Myra, they transferred to a larger ship carrying Egyptian grain from Alexandria to Italy. Making slow headway against the strong northwestern wind, they took several days to reach Cnidus on the southwest tip of Asia Minor. The wind’s not allowing them to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece, they sailed south to the island of Crete and west along its south coast, using the island as a shelter from the wind.

Sailing still being difficult, they moved along the coast with difficulty, finally coming to a small bay called Fair Havens. Because of the time they’d lost, the sailing season was almost over and Paul warned them, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives” (27:10). However, the harbour’s being unsuitable to winter in, they decided to sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix, a city farther west along the coast with a larger and safer harbour for wintering in.

The Storm

Unfortunately as they sailed along the shore a raging wind called the Northeaster swept down from the hills of Crete and they had to give way to it. Driven southwest about twenty-three miles to the small island of Cauda, they managed to get to the side of it sheltered from the wind. There they hauled the lifeboat on board, reinforced the ship with cables to keep it from breaking up, and fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars called Syrtis lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. In the next three days they threw overboard some of the cargo and the ship’s spare gear. With neither the sun and the stars’ appearing for many days and the storm’s continuing to rage, they began to lose any hope of being saved. However Paul urged them to take heart, sharing with them the message which an angel had given him not to be afraid because he must stand before Caesar and God had granted him all the men with him although the ship would run aground on a island and be lost.

About midnight of the fourteenth night the sailors sensed that they were nearing land, took soundings, and found that they were. They let down four anchors to keep the ship from being wrecked against the rocks of an unknown coast in the darkness. They also lowered the lifeboat into the sea, scheming to abandon the ship in an effort to save themselves. However Paul saw through their ruse and warned the centurion and soldiers that unless the sailors stayed with the ship nobody could be saved, and the soldiers cut away the ropes of the lifeboat. At dawn Paul reminded them that none of them was to be lost and urged them to take some food to give them strength. Encouraged by his words and by his eating some bread, they ate some food and then lightened the ship by throwing the rest of the grain into the sea.

The Shipwreck

When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land but saw a bay with a beach (now called St. Paul’s Bay) and decided to try to run the ship ashore there. They cut loose the anchors, placed the rudders back in the water to steer the ship, hoisted a small sail in the front of the ship (the beam holding the main sail had probably been lost in the storm) to the wind, and aimed the ship for the beach. However they ran aground on a sandbar, where the front of the ship stuck and the back of it was broken up by the surf. The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners so that none of them could swim away and escape, but the centurion wanted to save Paul and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard and make for land and the rest to get there on planks or other pieces of the ship. All 276 of them reached shore safely.

Malta

The native people of the island where they’d landed, Malta, built a fire for them because of the rain and cold. As Paul was putting some sticks on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and bit his hand. Seeing this the islanders thought that he must be a murderer whom, although he had escaped from the sea, justice would not allow to live. However when he shook the viper off into the fire and showed no ill effects, they changed their minds and said that he must be a god.

The chief official of Malta, Publius, entertained the shipwrecked travelers for three days. His father was suffering with fever and dysentery, symptoms of an infection caused by goat’s milk called Malta fever. Paul visited him, prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him. Then the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. As a result the islanders honoured the travelers and when they were ready to sail provided them with supplies for the remainder of their journey.

Richard N. Longenecker comments: “From what Luke tells us it seems that Paul may have looked on his stay in Malta as a high point in his ministry—a time of blessing when God worked in marvelous ways, despite the shipwreck and his still being a prisoner. God seems, through the experiences at Malta, to have been refreshing Paul’s spirit after the two relatively bleak years at Caesarea and the disastrous time at sea and preparing him for his witness in Rome” (”The Acts of the Apostles” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1981, page 565).

19-22. The Last Things

In our last meeting the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “19. The Blessed Hope,” “20. The Millennial Reign of Christ,” “21. The Final Judgment,” and “22. The New Heavens and New Earth” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. All five current members of the group attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we discussed additional members and study subjects for 2016-17; we considered the sheet on “The Last Things” which I’d given out the previous week, reading all the Scripture passages except Revelation 21-22 and discussing the statements; and Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer. We didn’t close with lunch as we usually do because we’d preceded the meeting with a meal celebrating the 21st birthday of one of our members, my son Robert. The contents of the sheet follow.

We call the study of what God has planned for the future eschatology or “the last things.” The Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (Article V of the PAONL’s General Constitution and By-Laws, 1998) contains the following Truths about the last things:

19. The Blessed Hope

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation, together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, is the imminent and blessed hope of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; Romans 8:23; Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52). The Rapture, according to the Scriptures, takes place before what is known as the Great Tribulation. Thus, the saints, who are raptured at Christ’s coming, do not go through the Great Tribulation.

20. The Millennial Reign of Christ

The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is the blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years (Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 24:27,30; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-14; 20:1-6). This millennial reign will bring the salvation of national Israel (Ezekiel 37:21,22; Zephaniah 3:19,20; Romans 11:26,27) and the establishment of universal peace (Isaiah 11:6-9; Psalm 72:3-8; Micah 4:3,4).

21. The Final Judgment

There will be a final judgment in which the wicked will be judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43-48; Revelation 19:20; 20:11-15; 21:8).

22. The New Heavens and New Earth

We, according to God’s promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21, 22).

When I’d given out the “The Last Things” sheet the previous week, I’d accompanied it with sheets called “Views on the Great Tribulation” and “Views on the Time and Nature of the Millennium.” We browsed the former when discussing 19. The Blessed Truth but didn’t look at the latter. Thus I’ll share just the former here. It follows.

Views on the Time of the Great Tribulation

The Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador says: “The Rapture, according to the Scriptures, takes place before what is known as the Great Tribulation. Thus, the saints, who are raptured at Christ’s coming, do not go through the Great Tribulation” (Truth 19). However some premillennialists hold that the Rapture takes place after the Great Tribulation. Their view is called posttribulationism and our view is called pretribulationism.

Posttribulationists make these arguments:
1. The tribulation is clearly linked with the Lord’s return in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (ESV).
2. The New Testament nowhere clearly says that the church will be taken out of the world before the tribulation. Moreover the only passage that explicitly speaks of the church’s being caught up, “[T]he Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, ESV) seems to describe something that is open and public.
3. The idea of two separate returns of Christ, once for his church before the tribulation and seven years later with his church to bring judgment, is nowhere explicitly taught anywhere in the New Testament.

Pretribulationists make these arguments:
1. Revelation 3:10, “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (ESV), seems to indicate that the church will be taken out of the world before the great tribulation. Other Bible passages which indicate that the church will not go through the great tribulation are Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
2. Since the great tribulation is a time of the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth, it would not be appropriate for Christians to be on the earth at that time.
3. If Christ comes before the tribulation, he could come at any time, which is consistent with the many Bible passages which indicate that he could come at any time. Some of those passages are Matthew 24:42,44; Matthew 25:13; Mark 13:35-37; Luke 12:40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7).

Stanley M. Horton, an Assemblies of God scholar cautions, “[L]et us not allow differences of opinions with respect to the time of the Rapture separate believers…. A ‘crown of righteousness’ is not limited to those who have right ideas about the Rapture, but is promised ‘to all who have longed for his appearing’ (2 Tim. 4:8). The commendation that we all want to hear is ‘well done, good and faithful servant!’ So let us all be about the Lord’s business and, at the same time, keep that longing for, that expectation of Christ’s coming, which might take place at any moment.” (Our Destiny, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1996, pages 133-34)

16-17. The Church and Ministry

In our last meeting the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “16. The Church and Its Mission” and “17. The Ministry and Evangelism” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. Four attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we considered the sheet on “The Church and The Ministry” that I’d given out in a previous meeting, reading all the Scripture passages except 1 Corinthians 12-14 and discussing the statements; Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer; and we closed with lunch. The sheet follows.

16. The Church and Its Mission

The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointment for the fulfilment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven (Ephesians 1:22,23; 2:22; Hebrews 12:23).

Since God’s purpose concerning man is to seek and save that which was lost, to be worshipped by man, and to build a body of believers in the image of His Son, the priority reason-for-being of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador as part of the Church is:

A. To be an agency of God for evangelizing the world (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16).

B. To be a corporate body in which man may worship God (1 Corinthians 12:13).

C. To be a channel of God’s purpose to build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:12).

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador exists expressly to give continuing emphasis to this reason-for-being in the New Testament apostolic pattern by teaching and encouraging believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This experience:

A. Enables them to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs (Mark 16:15-20; Acts 4:29-31; Hebrews 2:3,4).

B. Adds a necessary dimension to a worshipful relationship with God (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 1 Corinthians 12-14).

C. Enables them to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of fruit, gifts and ministries as in New Testament times for the edifying of the Body of Christ (Galatians 5:22-26; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:11,12; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Colossians 1:29).

17. The Ministry and Evangelism

A divinely-called and scripturally-ordained ministry is the provision of the Lord for the evangelization of the world and the edification of the Church (Mark 16:15-20; Ephesians 4:11-13).