C.S. Lewis, the God who takes risks and Open Theism

C.S. Lewis wrote that God takes risks, therefore he is what is known as an “open theist.” Here is Lewis:

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free. Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. … If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings, then we may take it it is worth paying.”(C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity).

(See “The plan of salvation: Is it worth the risk, my Son? What, risk! Ask Jacques Derrida, CS Lewis and Thomas Oord.”).

Lewis says above: “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.” What does Lewis mean by “what” in “he knew what would happen? In this passage it seems that Lewis is not referring to God’s micro ignorance of every future event but rather of his macro uncertainty of whether humans will use their free will for evil. If God was certain that humans were going to do evil, we could not describe God as taking risks.

As for God taking a risk (by creating humans), such a statement implies that when Adam and Eve sinned, God went something like this: “Ouch, what I dreaded could happen did. Oh well, it was still worth the risk.”

This “God of the risks” does not exist in any Christian movement except the modern movement – before Lewis – of “Open Theism.” It’s basic idea is that if God foreknows what a person is going to do, it’s no different from God decreeing what a person is going to do, because if a person wants to change his mind, he cannot change what God foreknew. In open theism, genuine human freedom implies that God cannot know future human thoughts or acts because divine foreknowledge implies foreordination, that is, predestination. (See “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence” by John Sanders ).

Does anyone know how God would react in a risky universe? When it comes to humans doing bad, what Andy Stanley does know is that God is embarrassed and much more; he has knee-jerk reactions. That is why, says Stanley, the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:6-11) is in Bible.

Philippians 2:6-11
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Say you’re in a church where the pastor/minister teaches 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.”

(See “The violation of Philippians 2:6-10: Knee-Jerk theism).

My question is this: If God could not be sure whether humans would choose to be bad, then doesn’t it follow that God cannot tell what the content of this bad – or any human good – will be. This is pure open theism: God knows the past, knows the presence, but not the future. Man’s pristine freedom remains intact. Goodbye you Calvinist robots and hello CS and Andy.

James White on the Atonement: Take your dirty little fingers off God’s glory


James R. White

James R. White

“Unlimited atonement” means that God gives everyone the possibility to be saved/redeemed if only they open the door of their radically corrupt hearts and invite Jesus in. James White does a good job of showing why this take on the Atonement takes much away from God’s glory.

There is no getting away from the fact, says C. S. Lewis, that this idea (of glory) is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb? (C. S. Lewis “The weight of glory” 1942, p. 6)

 In Hebrews 9:12 we read: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for US.” Who is this “us” that have been redeemed? In other words, for whom did Christ die, for whose did he atone? Back up to Hebrews 7:25: (Wherefore) he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.”

So, Christ intercedes only for those who come to him (by Him); no one else. In other words – Jesus’ words, he only prays for those the Father has given him out of the world, and not for (the rest of the) world:

 John 17:6-10

I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gave me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gave them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gave me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou did send me. 9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou has given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

 If the above verses demonstrate that Christ did not die for the whole world (every individual, what about the following passage that says that Christ died for “all?”

 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:11-15, ESV).

It’s not difficult: the “all” for whom Christ died refers to – in the same sentence – to all those who have died and have been regenerated/born again to a new life in Christ. “All (say “Ahhhhl”) can mean all without exception or all of a specific group; in the verse above, Christians.

James White is my favourite defender of the faith. He never, like any good apologist, apologises for what he believes. One’s favourites, though, sometimes say, unsurprisingly, disagreeable things. In this instance it is what James White says about God’s glory. One of the five “solas” is “To God’s glory alone.” Here is the typical Reformed (Calvinist) position from James White’s very good sermon “The centrality of God in the atonement.

(My insertions in brackets and underlining)

 (Near the beginning, 5th to 8th minute). “We believe in a God who is first and foremost glorifying Himself in creation and that the Gospel is the primary means whereby God, the triune God, the, Son and Holy Spirit glorifies Himself…the creature is not the central player of this entire drama… (Agree). The Gospel is all about what God is doing to glorify Himself.” (Will need to examine this)

Towards the end:

“When the world warps our minds, the result is we try and find ways of inserting our dirty little fingers into the purity of the Gospel itself. Not to try to steal all the glory, I mean we want continue to sing “To God be the glory,” right? But you see we will give 99% of the glory as long as the 1% I get determines my own destiny. That is the dividing between a supernatural faith and a man-centred faith.”

I agree with White that salvation is 100% of the Lord. But does this mean “the Gospel is all about what God is doing to glorify Himself?” (First paragraph)

 James White says yes. Martyn Lloyd Jones, in his sermon on Ephesians 1:6, says the same: “To the praise of his glory,” namely, that the story of our salvation is all about God’s glory. If Jones and White mean “ultimately” and “mainly” about God’s glory, then this, of course, is true. But “all” about God’s glory, is that what God wants? Let us return to John 17: “10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.”

So, Christ has given us, after saving us, some of the glory that His Father gave to Him.

Then there’s Romans 8: “16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

 Not to forget the passage par excellence of those who believe that salvation is 100% of the Lord (non-Arminians): “29 For those whom he foreknew (foreloved) he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8).

And for good measure: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Here is C. S. Lewis again but be careful of “us who really chooses” (“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” John 15:16):

It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”

To those who are jealous for God’s glory, as indeed He is jealous about it Himself (now don’t be silly and say you don’t think God should be jealous – think “zealous”), God is not that jealous that He cannot glorify those for whom he died. In glorifying his own, our glorious triune God does not, of course, share the unique incommunicado glory that is His alone.

 For further discussion see my “The weight of glory.”



Old MacDonald: John Piper shocked out of his Edwardsian socks

John Piper

John Piper

John Piper describes a “grievous experience I had when some of George MacDonald’s sermons were published in 1976 (Creation in Christ). I had relished three of MacDonald’s novels and the Anthology compiled by C.S. Lewis. Then I read this sentence, and the budding friendship collapsed: “From all copies of Jonathan Edwards’ portrait of God, however faded by time, however softened by the use of less glaring pigments, I turn with loathing” (Creation in Christ, P. 81). I was stunned. George MacDonald loathed my God! Over the last fifteen years since I graduated from college all my biblical studies in seminary and graduate school have led me to love and worship the God of Jonathan Edwards.” (How does a sovereign God love? ).

No, not this Jonathan Edwards, once a committed Christian but lost his faith when he retired in 2007 and is now an atheist,

Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

but this one.

Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758)

Jonathan Edwards (1703 -1758)

George MacDonald (1824 – 1905) was a Scottish author and Christian Congregational minister. He is best known for his fantasy novels such as Phantastes, The Princess and the Goblin, At the Back of the North Wind, and Lilith, and fairy tales such as “The Light Princess“, “The Golden Key“, and “The Wise Woman“. He influenced many writers such as J. R. R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis. He was Lewis Carroll’s (the pen-name of Rev. Charles L. Dodgson) mentor.

George MacDonald

What was it that made George MacDonald say he loathed the God of Jonathan Edwards? Piper doesn’t say. One of the reasons must surely be that MacDonald considered the idea of penal substitutionary atonement an affront to God’s justice. “Because he is just, says MacDonald, we are capable of knowing justice; it is because he is just, that we have the idea of justice so deeply imbedded in us.” One of MacDonald arguments is that because the one who commits an offence is totally responsible, he or she is the only one who can atone for his offence, his sin. He continues:

“Suppose my watch has been taken from my pocket; I lay hold of the thief; he is dragged before the magistrate, proved guilty, and sentenced to a just imprisonment: must I walk home satisfied with the result? Have I had justice done me? The thief may have had justice done him—but where is my watch? That is gone, and I remain a man wronged. Who has done me the wrong? The thief. Who can set right the wrong? The thief, and only the thief; nobody but the man that did the wrong. God may be able to move the man to right the wrong, but God himself cannot right it without the man. Suppose my watch found and restored, is the account settled between me and the thief? I may forgive him, but is the wrong removed? By no means. But suppose the thief to bethink himself, to repent. He has, we shall say, put it out of his power to return the watch, but he comes to me and says he is sorry he stole it and begs me to accept for the present what little he is able to bring, as a beginning of atonement: how should I then regard the matter? Should I not feel that he had gone far to make atonement—done more to make up for the injury he had inflicted upon me, than the mere restoration of the watch, even by himself, could reach to? Would there not lie, in the thief’s confession and submission and initial restoration, an appeal to the divinest in me—to the eternal brotherhood? Would it not indeed amount to a sufficing atonement as between man and man? If he offered to bear what I chose to lay upon him, should I feel it necessary, for the sake of justice, to inflict some certain suffering as demanded by righteousness? I should still have a claim upon him for my watch, but should I not be apt to forget it? He who commits the offence can make up for it—and he alone” George MacDonald, Sermon on Justice).

C. S. Lewis regarded MacDonald as his “master.” Lewis writes:

“I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him. But it has not seemed to me that those who have received my books kindly take even now sufficient notice of the affiliation. Honesty drives me to emphasize it. And even if honesty did not, well, I am a don, and “source-hunting” is perhaps in my marrow. It must be more than thirty years ago that I bought-almost unwillingly, for I had looked at the volume on that bookstall and rejected it on a dozen previous occasions – the Everyman edition of (Lewis’s Preface to George MacDonald. An Anthology, edited by C.S. Lewis). (See A critique of George MacDonald’s rejection of penal substitutionary atonement.

I wonder whether his “disciple’s” (C.S. Lewis) low view of the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice of Christ had something to do with MacDonald’s rejection of this doctrine  (the shedding of Christ’s blood to reconcile sinners to God). Lewis doesn’t reject this doctrine but it seems he might as well have done so. Here is Lewis:

“You can say, says Lewis in his “Mere Christianity,” that Christ died for our sins. You may say that the Father has forgiven us because Christ has done for us what we ought to have done. You may say that we are washed in the blood of the Lamb. You may say that Christ has defeated death. They are all true. If any of them do not appeal to you, leave it alone and get on with the formula that does. And, whatever you do, do not start quarrelling with other people because they use a different formula from yours.”

So if the formula of Christ shedding his blood for sins does not appeal to you, chuck it. (See Penal Substitution in C S Lewis.

mad scientist