Omnisomething

Omnisomething

dog swimming

 

Our dog, Jane, was afraid of the water. Against her will, I made her sit on the pool steps. I wanted her to be able to enjoy the cool refreshing water on a hot day. I hoped that she would realize she was safe on the steps. Eventually, the fast pace of her little puppy heart slowed, and she decided the water wasn’t so bad after all. And then, she just started swimming, all the way to the deep end. Suddenly I was the one with the racing heart.

Jane would not stay on the steps, once she knew she could swim. For the remainder of the afternoon, she swam so much, I worried. “What if she is in the middle of the deep end and gets tired and can’t make it to the side? What have I done?” I said. I regretted my decision. I never expected her to go swimming all around the pool for hours. I thought she would stay on the steps.

My brother assured me, “We’re right here. Nothing is going to happen to her.”

When it comes to God’s Sovereignty and the free will of humanity, I haven’t been able to find a satisfactory place to plant my flag. Not because of doubting God’s Sovereignty, but because of doubts about the nature of so-called free will. But when it comes to God’s Omniscience and the free will of humanity, that flag was planted a long time ago and hasn’t budged an inch. One of the regular blog readers and commenters (Mary) suggested in a comment on the blog post, What the Noah Movie Says about God, that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience. I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject since writing the three blog posts about the Noah movie. And since I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about making idols out of planted flags, I’m letting the concept simmer for a while.

With Jane, I regretted my decision to make her sit on the pool steps. In the Genesis story, Creator B (the Genesis writers’ version of God) regretted creating human beings.

With Jane, the cause for my regret was that she chose to leave the safety of the steps to go swimming in the deep end. With humanity, the cause for Creator B’s regret was that people chose to be violent and corrupt.

With me, I did not know the choice Jane would make. With Creator B, it seems He did not know the choices humanity would make.

If Jane were about to cause any of the three kids swimming in the pool to drown, or if she were to begin to drown herself, I would intervene. When humanity made choices that resulted in pain or death for themselves or others, Creator B intervened.

The outcome of my intervention would be that no one would drown. The outcome of Creator B’s intervention was that everyone (except eight) died by drowning.

My intervention would have been to remove Jane from the pool so that the pool would be a safe and happy place for the kids to swim. Creator B’s intervention was to remove people from the world so the world could be a safe and happy place for people to live.

The reason I know that removing Jane from the pool would resolve the problem is that Jane is a puppy who is inherently prone to stupidity and recklessness, whereas the kids who were swimming were responsible and smart. Could Creator B not have examined the hearts of Noah and his family and seen that they were as prone to violence and corruption as those who died outside of the ark?

Let’s just suppose that God can be omniscient without knowing the future. For argument’s sake, I’ll entertain that thought.

If the first few generations of the descendants of Noah were violent and corrupt, there is no mention of it in Genesis. In contrast, they were united. They had rational discussions and cooperated with one another. It seemed like Creator A’s plan was working. The world appeared to be a safe and happy place for people to live in community:

And the whole earth was of one language and of one accent and mode of expression. And as they journeyed eastward, they found a plain (valley) in the land of Shinar, and they settled and dwelt there. And they said one to another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” So they had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches into the sky, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the whole earth.”

But then Creator B does something that is in complete opposition to the purpose of the flood in Genesis:

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do, and now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confound (mix up, confuse) their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from that place upon the face of the whole earth, and they gave up building the city.

Creator B, in confounding their speech, essentially created an environment that is more conducive to corruption and violence, a world of cultural differences, a world of the “in-group” and the “out-group,” a world of territorial “selves” and “others.”

There is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that Creator B was exercising any kind of righteous punishment against a particular sin. Once again, we have the opportunity to examine the text as it is presented and allow the Sword of the Spirit to penetrate our own thoughts and motives in how we choose to interpret it.

The Tower of Babel story marked the end of universal monotheism in the Old Testament. Creator B eliminated the “threat” of cooperation and ushered in the age of idolatry in which Creator B regularly pours out his wrath in various violent ways on the “others.”

I’m still examining the possibility (however improbable) that God’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) might not be a prerequisite for His omniscience, if, for example, God created a universe of multiple possibilities in which He remains Sovereign and accomplishes His purposes regardless of which possibilities come to fruition. There is so much we don’t know for certain about God.

Sometimes it’s easier to discover Who God is and what God does by identifying Who God isn’t and what God doesn’t do. The drastic difference between what Creator B does in the flood story and what Creator B does in the Babel story, to me, demonstrates that Creator B’s knowledge of the future (or lack thereof) is irrelevant. Creator B drowns millions of people and animals to rid the world of violence and corruption, and then once the world is repopulated with people who have learned from their mistakes and changed their ways, Creator B stomps a divine foot in the cosmic ant pile. Creator B is omnisomething other than God.

Comments
  • Mary Vanderplas May 30, 2014 at 5:26 am

    I think you’re right about there being nothing in the text in Genesis 11 to indicate that God was acting to punish. However, I think that what is implied is that God acted to accomplish his will for scattering – that he viewed the situation of isolationism as being less than his intention for the creation and intervened to correct it, to the end of promoting diversity, not conflict and division. God’s action was in this sense a judgment, though not a punishment. I don’t agree that God thereby “ushered in the age of idolatry.” If anything, God came against and disrupted the idolatry that inheres in an isolationist perspective that fears dealing with those who are different.

    I agree that “there is so much we don’t know for certain about God.” I would add that the biblical authors seem to be far less concerned with speculative questions about whether God knows everything that will ever happen than they are with God’s knowledge of his human creatures and his involvement in our lives to help and care for us.

    I still think that in focusing only on the divine judgment in the story of Noah, you miss something true and important about God that this story is intended to communicate. You also, I think, miss something true and important about God in this story in Genesis 11.

    • Mary Vanderplas June 2, 2014 at 5:33 am

      I enjoyed reading about your experience of introducing Jane to the swimming pool, though I don’t really see it as being comparable to the Genesis story. While Jane may have put herself at some risk by venturing into the deep end, it can hardly be said, based on your description of what she did, that she was being recalcitrant. This stands in sharp contrast to the people in Noah’s day. And while I don’t doubt that you felt angst in watching her leave her safe place on the steps and that you regretted your decision to make her get into the pool in the first place, I can’t see how this compares to God’s grieving over the sorry condition of humankind in its turning away from him and from the purpose for which he had created them. While I agree that God’s intervening to judge for the purpose of cleansing would have had the same effect as your intervening to remove Jane from the pool had she acted up and caused a problem, I nonetheless don’t see what you would have done as being a cleansing, a judgment, so much as simply acting to avert a potential tragedy.

      Also, I don’t agree that after the flood, the creator’s plan (of cleansing) appeared to be working. The end of the flood narrative makes clear that nothing had changed when it comes to the human condition (8:21). The only change that had occurred was a change in the heart and mind of God, whereby he resolved to embrace the creation in spite of, and in some sense because of, its resistance. This seems to me to be the main point of this story expressing the faith of Israel.

      • admin June 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

        You make a good point regarding the apparent positive change in the Babel story: “The end of the flood narrative makes clear that nothing had changed when it comes to the human condition (8:21).” Perhaps the change was only an outward change and the confusion of languages served to reveal the evil intentions hidden within. In a way, 8:21 makes the flood look more like a divine temper tantrum. I’ve always been skeptical about uniformitarianism, and that’s why I don’t disregard the flood story. Flood or no flood, the world was populated (or becomes repopulated) with people who fit the description of 8:21. So what ultimate purpose does the flood serve? I have a theory, just a suspicion without any evidence really, if there was a great cataclysmic flood, the purpose it served had something to do with geological changes necessary for the earth continue supporting life or something like that. The Genesis story seems like a human effort to find a moral explanation for an amoral event. What do you think?

        • Mary Vanderplas June 6, 2014 at 5:31 am

          I don’t think it can be known whether there was one flood that this story is based on or whether it is based on remembrances of different flood experiences. And I don’t think it matters as far as how the story should be interpreted. I see the story as an attempt to say some important things about human beings and about God – as proclamation reflecting the faith of Israel, not as historical narrative. The content of the proclamation is warning along with promise – the warning being that God takes seriously his expectations for the creation and has ways to deal with humankind’s recalcitrance and the promise being that God has decided to stay with the creation, that he has promised not to act in floodlike ways again, even though his human creatures remain resistant to his purposes.

          • Lanny A. Eichert June 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

            Mary, it matters very much what faith you have in the Genesis flood. It determines to me whether you go to heaven or hell, even for ALL TO KNOW your eternal destiny. See 2 Peter 3: 3 – 7 where verse 6 is a reference to the flood and scoffers are labeled willfully ignorant.

            Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

            Can you see yourself above, Mary? Better yet, now what kind of flood was it, Mary, now that you’ve read 2 Peter 3: 3 – 7 and will you believe it to the saving of your soul?

            • Mary Vanderplas June 8, 2014 at 7:03 am

              Salvation is based on faith in “the Genesis flood”?? Salvation is based on God’s grace in Christ, not on one’s interpretation of the biblical text or on anything else you single out as being of critical importance in determining who goes where. The 2 Peter text says nothing about salvation being dependent upon believing that the flood narrative in Genesis is history. Indeed, it says nothing about the flood narrative being a detailed account of what happened. What it says is simply that the scoffers ignore the power of God’s word evidenced in creation and in the flood. The issue here is that these scoffers do not believe that God will act to bring history to a conclusion; they do not believe that the Lord will return. The author emphasizes that God’s word is active and powerful and will bring about God’s purposes for the world. He emphasizes, too, that the delay in the second coming is due to God’s mercy and patience, to his willing that all be saved.

            • Lanny A. Eichert June 9, 2014 at 1:00 am

              Mary, you have a faulty view of “God’s grace in Christ” because you don’t understand God’s perfect literal Holy Bible as you’ve scoffed it in willful ignorance. Faith in God results in faith in His perfect literal Holy Bible because He wrote it. You simply don’t believe “what God does” and therefore you are not able to believe God’s person.

              • Mary Vanderplas June 10, 2014 at 5:38 am

                My “faulty view” of grace is right in line with what Paul teaches and what the Reformers understood: free gift means free gift, not something earned by either believing rightly or doing good.

                • Lanny A. Eichert June 10, 2014 at 8:33 pm

                  Mary, Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

                  Having just read 2 Peter 3: 3 – 7 what kind of flood was it, Mary, and will you believe it rightly to the saving of your soul or will you refuse it in error to the damning of your soul?

                  • Mary Vanderplas June 13, 2014 at 5:07 am

                    I believe in the God whose word is active and powerful and who will indeed bring history to a conclusion in his time – the points of this text. Most especially, I believe in the God whose will is that none perish but that all come to repentance (v. 9).

                    • Lanny A. Eichert June 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm

                      Mary, believe reality: only 8 were saved and the rest of the whole world DIED in the Flood. Face reality: >90% of the world’s population has died without confessing Christ. God would not desire any to perish, but He has chosen only His Elect for salvation and all the rest perish because they lack the faith to believe and trust God. They are without excuse {Romans 1: 20}. Jesus said it would be so.

                      Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. {Matthew 7: 13 & 14}

                      Who are you going to believe: your conclusion or Jesus?

  • Lanny A. Eichert June 1, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Alice is so far from the truth when she wrote in her blog: There is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that Creator B was exercising any kind of righteous punishment against a particular sin. … The Tower of Babel story marked the end of universal monotheism in the Old Testament. Creator B eliminated the “threat” of cooperation and ushered in the age of idolatry in which Creator B regularly pours out his wrath in various violent ways on the “others.”

    They were making a NAME for THEMSELVES instead of being called God’s people. Thy were rejecting identification with God in order to be self-identified. They wanted their independance FROM God. {That’s political correctness today.} They gathered in unity to make a monument unto themselves. God split them up and caused the work to stop so that they would return to their roots as creatures of God. God was promoting monotheism by foiling their cooperation and understanding so that they could find no strength in numbers. “The majority rules” crumbled in confusion and brought them back to their original understanding of who they were.

    God said, this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. {Genesis 11: 6} They stated their objection to God’s program of multiplying and populating the WHOLE earth in verse 4: lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. God has BOUNDARIES for human works, what man may do and what man is not allowed to do. They were engaged in idolatry in verse 4 and God put an immediate stop to it by confounding their speech and ending their one world religion, to which we again are headed since the end of WW#2 under the World Council of Churches and global unity and the resultant inter-racial marriages. God established the ethnic groups at Babel and we have no right to mix it up. Inter-racial marriages are sinful and against God’s purposes. God caused segregation and segregation is righteous behavour. Biblical Israel was not permitted to marry outside of Israel. God’s people are prohibited inter-racial marriages. It is sin for them and a life-long sin for those who do.

    God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth … And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation {Acts 17: 26}

    God determined ethnic boundaries and they STILL are in place under ther New Covenant otherwise Paul would not have so preached to the Athenians. It was sin to import African slaves to Europe and America. Everybody belongs where God put them: the Blacks in Africa, the Chinese in China, the Asians in Asia, the Europeans in Europe. They were to spread out in THOSE areas of the globe and stay there.

    No, Alice, God did judge a particular sin by splitting up the human race into new frontiers and ethnicities. He foiled idolatry leaving monotheism intact, but the rebellion of human nature eventually developed paganism anyway. God did not usher in idolatry, man did it naturally. Alice, you aught not blaspheme God for doing what the sinful heart of man does. You reveal your unregenerated heart that way.

    • admin June 1, 2014 at 12:57 am

      The text says nothing about either their rejecting God or wanting independence from God. Their motivation for wanting to build a reputation was cohesiveness (lest we be scattered).

      “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” – notice the “increase in number” part. This demonstrates how the earth is filled, not by scattering the current population, but by reproducing and increasing in numbers.

      There is no sin in building a giant structure. I have no idea where you tie this “boundary” idea into the height of structures.

      In saying “interracial marriages are sinful” and “segregation is righteous behavior” and all that nonsense about Blacks in Africa, Chinese in China, etc. you lend credibility to the idea I wrote about in the blog, that the Babel story paints a picture of God (a false picture) as the author of cultural differences, the in-group and other, etc. Thanks for demonstrating to readers exactly what an infallible, literal approach to interpretation of scripture does to a person’s mind and heart.

      • Mary Vanderplas June 1, 2014 at 6:02 am

        I don’t agree that reproducing not scattering the current population is what God had in mind when he issued the command to fill the earth. God’s design was that human beings spread out so they could fulfill their responsibility of being caretakers of the earth. The mandate to fill the earth can include both reproduction and scattering of the current population.

        I agree that the motivation of the people was resistance to being scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth. I think that the text implies that this resistance to God’s purpose of spreading out in order to fulfill the charge to care for the earth is what leads God to respond as he does – disrupting their self-made unity and their inclinations toward self-preservation and isolation, for the sake of God’s purposes for the creation. The story, in my view, paints an accurate picture of a God who promotes diversity and difference for the sake of the creation – which need not lead to disunity and division.
        I agree totally with the rest of what you say about what this text is not about – and about the harm that is done when people interpret it as saying nonsensical things that foster prejudice and division.

        • Lanny A. Eichert June 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm

          Mary, God wants His saints to be prejudiced in many good ways, especially from marrying outside the Faith. God’s salvation makes His saints like Him and marriage is MAINLY a picture of Christ’s union with His Saints.

          This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. {Ephesians 5: 32}

          Israel is to marry none other than Israel.

          Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? {2 Corinthians 6: 14}

          Mary, this instruction means there will always be a majority of unbelievers. Only the few are the Elect. Everybody else is damned to everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire.

      • Lanny A. Eichert June 1, 2014 at 11:05 pm

        Alice, Mary, June 1, 2014 at 6:02 am, agrees they were in specific resistance against God’s mandate and God took action against them to solve that problem. That problem was sin: coming short of the glory of God, which is reproduction in this case to fill the earth. She rightly said it is “God who promotes diversity and difference for the sake of the creation” but wrongly goes on with “which need not lead to disunity and division” since that was exactly what God intended to do to stop their building both then and in the future.

        When God destroyed Sodom He had not intention of letting it return to its former state ever, and likewise ethnic divisions remain God immutable plan for this unregenerated earth.

      • Mary Vanderplas June 2, 2014 at 5:25 am

        Is cultural diversity a bad thing? Consider the marvelous diversity that characterizes the creation. And consider the table of nations in Genesis 10, in which the diversity and spreading abroad of people is regarded in a positive light. Given this, I don’t see why a picture of God as author-promoter of cultural difference (Genesis 11) must be a false picture.

        • admin June 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm

          I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the universal translator device on Star Trek, but it translates any known language between the various sentient species in the universe. Imagine several species working together to build a giant space station. Then someone comes along and stomps on their universal translator. It just doesn’t seem like something Jesus would do, unless there was something inherently wrong with building a space station. Jesus fashioned a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple, because of there was something inherently wrong with what they were doing. What is wrong about a tall building? Little kids play with blocks, competing with each other to see who can build the highest tower. If one were to knock another’s tower down, the grown ups would tell the culprit it was wrong. In the Babel story, god seems to be afraid of human progress, “and now, nothing is restrained from them of that which they have purposed to do.” In this context, cultural differences begin with language confusion as an act of sabotage. Cultural differences, including languages, are beautiful and wonderful and reflect the glory of God in creation. The words “cultural differences” only take on a negative connotation within the context of misunderstandings (i.e. confusion) that lead to negative interaction. In the Babel story, god’s intention is to cause confusion.

          • Mary Vanderplas June 6, 2014 at 5:32 am

            Nothing is wrong with a tall building. Nothing is wrong with human progress as such. What is being judged here, as I read it, is not their attempt to build something great or even necessarily their desire to gain fame for doing so, but their motivation for doing what they were doing: namely, their resistance to being scattered abroad on the face of the earth. This attitude reflects resistance to God’s purpose for humankind. To the extent that humankind resists being spread abroad, pursuing instead a self-serving, self-preserving unity, they fail to heed God’s command of filling the earth and being caretakers of the earth. Yes, God acts here to create confusion, but the confusion is the means to the end of promoting diversity for the sake of the creation. God’s goal here is not to cause confusion; it is to promote diversity over against an isolationism that threatens the well-being of the creation.

  • Dennis Goodman June 1, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    So nobody thinks the story of the Tower of Babel might have been written to explain the conditions in the world as they existed when the author of the story wrote it? (Who are all these people who aren’t Jews and why don’t we all speak the same language?)

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 7, 2014 at 4:33 am

      Dennis, the Jews began with God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12: 1 & 2 which happened AFTER Babel, so there were no Jews there. That history of God’s confounding their language is why we don’t speak the same language today. The Author of that history is God’s Holy Spirit as per 2 Peter 1: 20 & 21 and, yes, He wrote it to tell us why He confounded the conditions of the world as it then existed and why we have different ethnic groups today with different languages.

      • Dennis Goodman June 8, 2014 at 9:31 am

        Thanks for that explanation. So you see all of the Bible as prophetic then? (I’m not trying to argue with you, just trying to understand your beliefs.)

    • Lanny A. Eichert June 9, 2014 at 12:04 am

      Dennis, the Bible is history written after the fact by fourty different human penmen over a two thousand year period ending approximately sixty years after Jesus’ crucifixion. It contains portions of poetry and prophecy which prove its authority as God’s individual words perfectly spelt since many of its prophecies have been perfectly literally fulfilled in Jesus. Further proof of its divine nature is its unity as the explanatory book of the redemptive program of God for His Elect. It claims for itself the distinction of being breathed out from the Holy Spirit of God through the pens of its human penmen.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.