The Violation of Philippians 2:6-10 – Knee-jerk theism

There’s the God who knows everything because he sovereignly controls everything, which is the God I believe in because I believe this is the God of the Bible. Then there are the:

2.  “Open theists,” who believe that God cannot know something that has not happened yet.

3. “Middle knowledge” theists (Molinists) who say that God has a special vision (scientia visionis) and so knows all the possibilities of what man ( a free being) would choose, if the necessary conditions were fulfilled. God then supplies these conditions.

There’s also another kind of theism, that I heard about for the first time from Andy Stanley: “knee-jerk theism,” which I shall discuss here.

I am not only a daring Jew but also often a divisive Jew. Part of being daring, though, often also involves, distressingly, being divisive. The reason why this is so is that if truth matters, if rightly dividing the truth is important, it’s impossible not to be divisive. The question is: “Are there situations, in a church or other contexts, where truth should take the back seat to community spirit?” Here is Martyn Lloyd Jones:

Balance all the factors. Ah but you say, ‘that is all worldly wisdom;’ no it isn’t. It is the very thing the New Testament is continually exhorting us to…You’ve got to consider the thing like this: though your principle may be very clear to you, it may lessen your own efficacy, it may do harm to the total witness of the church which is preaching the real truth, it may confuse the people who are outside. You’ve got to consider these matters. You’ve got to be balanced, you’ve got to take it as a whole, and then having looked all round it and having prayed and waited and consulted, you then, if you’re fully satisfied everywhere, proceed to action.”

I don’t care whether a person is a Presbyterian or a Baptist or an Independent or whatever else he wants to call himself, as long as he is agreed about these. In an age such as this with godlessness rampant, the evil one abroad (the devil on the rampage), the Church weak and powerless and ineffective, to me the supreme tragedy is that evangelical people are divided, and divided solely on grounds of tradition, simply because they happened to have been brought up in a certain section of the Church…oh that we might see that the one great need and essential is that we make it plain and clear that we stand on revelation alone, then that we preach the biblical doctrine of sin and condemnation and hell, and the only way of salvation is in the Son by His blood, His death and glorious resurrection, and the power of the Holy Ghost upon it all.”

In sum, what often divides Christians is not biblical truth but human traditions. I would add: beware of knee-jerk reactions. My question is this: Say you’re in a church where the pastor/minister teaches what Lloyd Jones says are vital doctrines, namely, that he stands on revelation alone, and preaches the biblical doctrine of sin and condemnation and hell, and also that the only way of salvation is in the Son by His blood, His death and glorious resurrection, and the power of the Holy Ghost upon it all, and then in one of his sermons reads Philippians 2:6-10 and says – not once but twice – that what is described in that passsage is God’s “knee-jerk reaction.” That is what drives God in Philippians 2:5-12, says Andy Stanley, in the second video of the Louie Giglio’s four-part video series “How great is our God.” Here is the Philippians passage:

[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Philippians 2:5-11 ESV).

According to Andy Stanley, not only does God have knee-jerk reactions, He also, in the same breath, doesn’t change his mind.

In the same breath, Andy Stanley introduces Philippians 2:6-10 (my bold type):

God doesn’t change his mind…This (Philippians 2:6-10) is God’s knee-jerk reaction to our trying to hijack his glory. This is God’s response to the traitor race…who took the freedom He gave us and abused it for our benefit and to his embarrassment. Here’s how He responded: “I’ll teach ’em.”

Andy Stanley then quotes the Philippians passage and comments further:

That’ll teach ’em. Yeah, God’s knee-jerk reaction in response to us trying to hijack his glory, his response to us trying to hijack his glory, our response to our abuse of freedom.”

The Philippians passage does say something about knees; all knees will one day bow at the name of Jesus. Who knows, perhaps many knees will also jerk to the ground. It is certain, however, that the God of the Bible does not not respond with knee-jerk reactions; for as Louie Giglio says, “God is all-knowing” and so does not change his mind. (See my critique of Louie Giglio’s “Great is our God”).

Here is Deut 23:19:

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Deut 23:19). (In this regard see Raphael and Picasso pay attention: God is not a man that he should lie and Milking the teats off the text: the rabbinical interpretation of Numbers 23:19).

At the beginning, I described Molinism. To recap, a molinist is a “muddle knowledge,” theist who says that God knows all the possibilities of what man would choose, if the necessary conditions were fulfilled, and then supplies these conditions. A molinist is a violinist who plays on only one string – the middle one.” The traditional violin has four strings. The problem now – for the molinist – is which one is the middle one, the second or the third? What a muddle! In other words, which of these two strings will have no choice but to play second fiddle? The traditionalist forgets that there do exist those rare five string violins. Here is one:


If molinists jerk the scriptures around what are we to make of the knee-jerkists?

I’m going to be divisive and say that a Christian who believes (and teaches!) that God can suffer knee-jerk reactions is a very poor divider of the truth. To expose such false doctrine is a justifiable reason for being divisive, indeed, for kindly tearing a strip off someone who teaches such embarrassing fictions from a pulpit. God, of course, is not – can never be – embarrassed (Andy Stanley above says God gets embarassed). If that were possible, the Bible would surely have told us so. As it hasn’t, we should not attribute traits to God that do not exist in scripture and which are impossible to extrapolate from it. But then that’s what the traitor race loves doing to the Bible. There were times I did worse.


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