It is no secret that Open Theists read scriptures with different operative principles of interpretation than those who maintain classical theology. Open theists generally argue that scriptural passages demonstrate that God changes his mind, relents, repents or feels sorrow for things that have occurred. If they are correct, then at least to the extent such scripture is regarded as disclosing what is true of God, then God cannot be, as classical theists maintain: (1) immutable in the strong sense that none of Godâ€™s intrinsic properties is subject to change; (2) impassible in the sense that nothing outside of God influences him or otherwise has no feelings comparable to human feelings; (3) timeless in the sense that God is outside of any type of temporal succession; (4) prescient in the sense that God has infallible foreknowledge.
Those who oppose Open Theism argue that the â€œliteralâ€ readings of scripture by Open Theists ignore more general statements about God elsewhere in the Bible; fail to recognize that God adapts himself â€œanthropomorphicallyâ€ to speak to mere mortals and that from the divine point of view things look very different than from this view adapted to human weaknesses. We question whether this type of critique of open theists can be coherently maintained. Indeed, it seems that those who critique open theists readings makes several hermeneutical assumptions that are not merely foreign to the text itself, but which assume a view of human knowledge that is both arrogant and impossible from the human stance.
In such a short space we cannot possibly do justice to all of the texts and all of the issues that arise from such a far ranging discussion. Even a discussion that merely adequately defined the various views of the divine attributes would be foolish to attempt in so short a presentation. However, we want to focus on just two texts to tease out the differing hermeneutical approaches and to demonstrate that while both open theists and their opponents bring critical assumptions to the text, their assumptions are not equally problematic. Open theists bring the assumption to the text that its meaning can be teased out by logical principles. Taking the text at what it both says and asserts, they derive conclusions based on simple deductive principles.
Their critics, on the other hand, bring a prior understanding of God to the text that controls what it can possibly be read to establish. The critics, for short, assume scriptural uniformitarianism. That is, all writers of scripture write with a common understanding of God so that if one writer of scriptural records, even removed hundreds of years from another, has a given view of God, then all have a common understanding of God so that they cannot disagree. Thus, if say Isaiah says something that disagrees with the writer(s) compilers of Exodus and Deuteronomy, the text of Isaiah must be read in such a way as to harmonize. Further, the critics argue that this common understanding of God has already been accurately grasped by the tradition and so this traditional reading must control what can be concluded from the text.
Letâ€™s consider just two common texts used to support the Open Theistâ€™s view. Consider the text of Exodus 32 (and its parallel in Deuteronomy 9):
7 Yahweh spoke to Moses, â€œGo, get down; for your people, who you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves!
8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, â€˜These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.â€™â€
9 Yahweh said to Moses, â€œI have seen these people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked people.
10 Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation.â€
11 Moses begged Yahweh his God, and said, â€œYahweh, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, that you have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
12 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, â€˜He brought them forth for evil, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the surface of the earth?â€™ Turn from your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against your people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, â€˜I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.â€™â€
14 Yahweh repented of the evil which he said he would do to his people. (World English Bible)
There are several key points to be made about this text. God clearly declares that he intends to destroy the Israelites who had made the golden calf and to fulfill his promises by raising up a holy people through the lineage of Mosesâ€™ descendants alone. Moses, however, contends with God. Moses â€œbeggedâ€ God to both â€œturnâ€ (bwX) his wrath and â€œrepentâ€ (mhn) of his purpose to destroy Israel. (v. 12) The verbs here show that Moses expected God to change what he had declared he would do. He expected God to change his mind. The Hebrew verb nacham means not merely to change, but its primary meaning is to feel sorrow or regret for what one does. Its primary meaning is emotive. It refers to the emotional tone of oneâ€™s feelings about oneâ€™s own actions. The Hebrew shuv means to turn around, to turn from, to change oneâ€™s course or direction. Moses then asks God to remember (rkz) the covenant he has made to raise seed from them as numerous as the stars. God then â€œrepentsâ€ (KJV) or â€œrelentsâ€ (NAB) or â€œchanges his mind about the disaster he had planned to bring to his people.â€ (NRSV). While Moses believes that Godâ€™s intentions and declarations can be turned away and changed, he believes that there is something that must remain constant: Godâ€™s commitment to his covenant promises. Thus, Moses argues with God based upon the unchanging commitment to his covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation. What is unchanging for Moses in this narrative is not God; but Godâ€™s purposes and promises.
The verb used to describe what God does in response to Mosesâ€™s plea is precisely the same as that used by Moses to ask him to not do what he had stated he would: nacham. This verb is used often referring to what God does when he changes his course from what he has already declared he intends to do or has already done: â€œIt repented the Lord that he made man on the earth; and it grieved him at his heart.â€ (KJV Gen. 6:6) â€œFor it repented the Lord because of their groanings â€¦ (Judges 2:18 KJV); â€œand the Lord repented that he made Saul king over Israelâ€ (1 Sam 15:5); â€œAnd when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand.â€ (2 Sam 24:16; 1 Chron. 21:15); â€œThe Lord repented for thisâ€¦â€ (Amos 7:3; 6): â€œAnd God saw their works; that they turned from their evil ways: and God repented of the evil that he said he would do unto them.â€ (Johah 3:10) God stated that he intended to destroy the idolaters and asked Moses to step aside to let him alone to accomplish it. Destroying the people of Israel was something that â€œhe declaredâ€ or â€œthought to doâ€ (rbd) to his people. The verb declaring Godâ€™s intention is derived from dabar and means to speak or declare a divine word of intention to accomplish a purpose. (See Dt. 9:8-10) Yahweh â€œsorrowfully relentedâ€ from his stated and intended purpose. The same verb nacham is used to describe human acts of repentance denoting precisely the same semantic field of change of conduct and remorse that accompanies repentance. (Ex. 13:7; 1 Kings 8:47; Judges. 21: 6, 15; Ez. 14:30; Jer. 20:6).
Now Mormons may argue that in Joseph Smithâ€™s revision of these passages in his Inspired Version of the Bible (â€œJSTâ€). Joseph Smith changed all references to Godâ€™s repentance to the peopleâ€™s repentance â€“ he clearly believed that God was incapable of doing anything that required repentance. However, on the key issue as to whether God changed his mind, Josephâ€™s Inspired Version is even more emphatic that God changed from intending to do one thing to another. For example, Joseph changed Ex. 32:14 to read:
And the Lord said unto Moses, If they will repent of the evil which they have done, I will spare them, and turn away my fierce wrath; but, behold, thou shalt execute judgment upon all that will not repent of this evil this day. Therefore, see thou do this thing that I have commanded thee, or I will execute all that which I had thought to do unto my people.
Note that while Joseph changes from God repenting to the people repenting, he nevertheless emphasizes that â€œGod had thoughtâ€ to execute judgment upon his people. Thus, at one time God intended to execute judgment on his people and at a later time he relented and intended to execute judgment only if they would not repent. However, their repentance is left to the future and is uncertain. Moreover, if God must â€œturn away his fierce wrath,â€ then he engages in a course of action that is different that it was before being turned away.
A similar course of events occurs in Jonah 3, except it is a prophet who declares Godâ€™s intention; though it is once again God who relents or changes his mind:
1 The word of Yahweh came to Jonah the second time, saying,
2 â€œArise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I give you.â€
3 So Jonah arose, and went to Nineveh, according to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three daysâ€™ journey across.
4 Jonah began to enter into the city a dayâ€™s journey, and he cried out, and said, â€œYet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!â€
5 The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
6 The news reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
7 He made a proclamation and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, â€œLet neither man nor animal, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, nor drink water;
8 but let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and animal, and let them cry mightily to God. Yes, let them turn everyone from his evil way, and from the violence that is in his hands.
9 Who knows whether God will not turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, so that we might not perish?â€
10 God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. God repented of the evil which he said he would do to them, and he didnâ€™t do it. (Jonah 3 WEB)
In this passage Johah declares the message given to him by Yahweh: â€œYet forty days and Ninevah shall be overthrown.â€ (v. 3) So God through Jonah declares the destruction of Ninevah and there is nothing in the context to suggest that such a declaration is conditional. It is a starightforward statement of what will occur. Yet the people of Ninevah believed Yahweh (tho apparently not previously Yahwites) and expressed hope that God might change his declared sentence upon the people: â€œWho knows whether god will turn (shuv) and repent (nacham), and turn away (shuv) his fierce anger..?â€ The people of Ninevah donâ€™t know whether God will divert his declared course of action; but they didnâ€™t take the declaration as immutably unconditional. When God saw their repentance, he turned away (shuv) and repented (nacham) from what he said he would do.
Now what the Open Theists derive from these passages is clear. Moreover, the hermeneutic applied to derive the conclusions is also clear. God is not immutable because he changed intrinsic properties. Beliefs are intrinsic properties. To change such intrinsic properties by changing beliefs is a â€œrealâ€ change and not merely an extrinsic or apparent change. God changed from believing at one time that he would destroy the Israelites who made the golden calf to a later state in which he turned from that course of action to feeling sorrow for doing so and relenting. So at t1 God believes he will destroy Israel, and at a later time, t2, God no longer has this belief and believes instead that he will not destroy Israel. Thus, God is not immutable in the sense that there is no change in his intrinsic properties. God is not timeless in the sense that there are not temporally successive and distinct states for him. God is not impassible in either the sense that nothing external to God acts upon him (and thus is not a se either) nor in the sense that God does not feel emotions or passions such as anger, wrath and sorrow. Nor is God prescient because if he believed at t1 that Israel would consist of only Mosesâ€™ descendants, then his knowledge of the future was most certainly limited. The argument looks something like this:
(1) The scriptures state that at one time t1 God intended to destroy the people; and at a later time t2 God relented and did not intend to destroy the people. (Ex. 32 and Jonah 3)
(2) God is not immutable if his intrinsic properties change.
(3) A change from intending to destroy at t1 to intending not to destroy at t2 is a change in intrinsic properties.
(4) What the scriptures state is true.
(C1) Therefore, God is not immutable. (From 1, 2 and 3)
(5) God is not timeless if he must be distinguished in terms of intrinsic properties had at a moment t1 that are different from those intrinsic properties had at some later temporal moment t2.
(6) A change from intending to destroy the people at t1 to intending not destroy the people at a later moment t2 is a temporal change.
(C2) Therefore, God is not timeless. (From 1, 4, 5 and 6)
(7) God is not impassible-A if anything external to him influences him and is not impassible-B if he feels remorse or sorrow.
(8) The scriptures state that God was influenced to relent his decree to destroy the people by the peopleâ€™s repentance and that he regretted a course of action that he had declared.
(9) The peopleâ€™s repentance is an external influence.
(C3) Therefore, God is neither impassible-A nor impassible-B. (From 4, 7, 8 and 9).
(10) God is not infallibly prescient if he believes that at time t1 a course of events would occur that is different that what actually occurred at a later time t2.
(11) The scriptures state that at a time t1 God intended and therefore believed that the people would be destroyed and an a latter time t2 something else occurred.
(C4) Therefore, God is not infallibly prescient. (From 4, 10 and 11)
The assumption made in deriving such conclusions is clear: the text can be interpreted using deductive logic. These conclusions are straightforward deductive conclusions. The text doesnâ€™t comment on any of these attributes of God – indeed never uses the terms â€œattributesâ€, â€œimmutableâ€, â€œimpassibleâ€, â€œtimelessâ€ or â€œprescientâ€ or even â€œomniscientâ€ or â€œpropertiesâ€. Even the notion that God has attributes as such is not stated in the text. This way of approaching the text may seem natural and perfectly reasonable, but it is not the way that the scripture reasons or presents itself. It is an assumption brought to the text. However, the Open Theist is not arguing that the scripture reasons this way or that it expressly states that these attributes define God in scriptural language. Rather, they assert that it is important not to import these foreign terms derived from Greek philosophy into the text to make sense of them as a preconceived premise that controls interpretation of the text.
1. Rejecting Deductive Logic as a Hermeneutical Tool. Those who are critical of Open Theism do not disagree (at least with respect to these scriptures) that the scriptural language makes the assertions that God intended to destroy a people and then relented. Rather, they reject premise (4) and assert instead that these statements as to what God declared and that he later relented must be seen as God actually doing or intending something other than what God declared according to these passages. There are a number of different moves to avoid the logical approach to scripture, and one is to simply deny that logic can be used to interpret scripture in this way. Such an approach has been hinted at by Eric Johnson in his essay, â€œCan God Be Grasped by Reason?â€. Johnson asserts:
[T]he understanding of God put forth by open theism is truncated by a rigid use of logic unable to do justice to evidence that appears to contradict its favored set of truths. In the face of the preponderance of scriptural evidence on both sides of such issues as [free will and determining of human actions] the opponents of historical Christian theism must do more than assert that one line of evidence/argument contradicts another line of evidence/argument. Such an â€˜argumentâ€™ does nothing more than highlight concurrence.
Johnson asserts that there are â€œapparentlyâ€ contradictory views in scripture and the fact that we cannot reconcile them logically does not mean that both are not true. He suggests that we ought to put off any judgment as to whether such apparent contradictions are in fact contradictions. He suggests that some views ought to be deferred indefinitely because â€œsome of the mysteries of an infinite God must necessarily transcend the finite capacities of the created mind to grasp them.â€ Yet such a view does not suggest that we ought to avoid using deductive logic to plumb the meaning of scriptural passages, but only that as we view such passages using such deductive principles we may find views that appear to be contradictory and we must suspend our final view as to how they can be reconciled. Indeed, unless the scriptures were playing the deductive language game in the first place, there would be no basis for comparing such passages to reach a tentative conclusion that they appear to be contradictory.
Can we or should we refrain from using deductive logic to interpret scripture? In reality, the only premise that takes scripture to be playing the language game of logic is premise (1), and it is not a logical conclusion but merely a summary statement as to what the scriptures such as Exodus 32 and Jonah 3 appear to straightforwardly state. The remainder of the argument is an argument based upon various theological conclusions that are contradictory to premise (1). So the open theists interpretation of the scripture is not dependent on the view that scripture plays the language game of deductive logic. Rather, a conclusion is drawn to argue against theological propositions that are in conflict with that conclusion. Indeed, it seems that most if not all open theists would agree that scripture cannot be cited to support the kind of theological propositions that they reject based upon their conclusions as to what scripture teaches.
Moreover, such a view seems to be at odds with a fundamental(ist) view of scripture that insists upon scriptures â€œinerrancy, necessity, sufficiency, and clarityâ€¦.â€ Thus, Talbot concludes that â€œif god is Scriptureâ€™s primary author and its every word is ultimately a word from him, then Scripture will be as truthful and consistent as God himself is.â€ Yet if â€œconsistencyâ€ is required, what else could that mean except â€œlogical consistencyâ€? Such assertions of course raise the longstanding disagreements between those who read scriptural texts in terms of historical criticism and other forms of higher criticism and those who insist on inerrancy. Such a view would indeed require recognition that there are merely apparent and not any real contradictions in the text. However, we will never know based upon the text itself because the text lacks the clarity to resolve such issues. Indeed, the appeal to such standards as consistency, clarity, sufficiency and necessity are clearly not scriptural assertions but conclusions as to what the scriptures must be. However, we would note that these kinds of conclusions are not on par with those of open theist who texts like Exodus 32 and Jonah 3 to require the open the view. The conclusions of open theists are derived from the text itself; the notions of scriptural plenary inspiration and inerrancy are not derived from the text but imposed on it. We suspect that the inerrancy of the scripture is derived largely from precisely the kind of argument Talbot gives.
Finally, isnâ€™t reason presupposed in the very use of language? If God says that he intended to do one thing and then, after Moses dialogues with God, God declares a different course in response to Moses, how can we avoid the conclusion that Moses influenced God, the God listened and took into consideration what Moses said, that God had stated an intention to do one thing and that later his intention was different than previously stated? The fact that God gives weight to Mosesâ€™ reasons, though not deductive arguments per se, shows that the text itself presupposes that human reasons have merit with God.
2. Arguing that the Scripture Does not Accurately Portray God Because it is Language Adapted to Human Limitations. The most common approach of those who reject the Open Theistâ€™s conclusions is to argue that the language of scripture in these instances in merely anthropomorphic and should not be taken literally.
The most obvious problem with such a view is that there is no principled basis for distinguishing non-literal or metaphoric readings from those that should be taken as literal. All language is â€œanthropomorphicâ€ in the sense that it is the tool we use to express, refer and communicate. So all and any language is to some extent â€œanthropomorphicâ€ or irredeemably limited by our own epistemic horizons and linguistic usages and practices. We cannot escape our own skin. Yet limiting the scripture by denying any conclusion that could be drawn that is not expressed in the very quoting of scripture itself without any grasp of what is asserted makes reading scripture rather pointless. We can read the words, but not grasp or understand in any way what is being said by those words. Thus, all language is metaphoric since the sign is not what is pointed to by the sign or words used. To that extent, this objection is over-broad. Moreover, it would rule out the possibility not only of the deductive conclusions of open theists but also certainly the classical view which is, if anything, even more far removed from the scriptural language.
Moreover, there is no rule or set of criteria provided in the scripture itself to discern whether something should be taken literally or merely metaphorically. When the scripture straightforwardly asserts that Moses saw God and spoke with him face to face, or that God has the form of the appearance of a human as Ezekiel asserted, the traditional views have uniformly asserted that a prior commitment to Godâ€™s immaterial nature rules out taking such statements as descriptions of what God is really like. Mormons take these passages literally as statements revealing Godâ€™s likeness and image. When the scriptures rather straightforwardly state that God changed his mind, repented or relented, how do we decide that these are not actually statements describing what God actually did instead of some metaphor to human experience to allow us to grasp some bare notion of what God actually did? We suggest that arguments that such passages should be taken metaphorically and not as assertions stating what God actually did are driven by prior theological commitments and not the text. In fact, there is nothing in these texts suggesting merely a metaphorical reading. The explanation that the language is merely metaphorical is thus a conclusion not based on the text from outside the text based on prior commitments that conflict with the text. Yet how could our views of God ever be informed by the text if we read the text in this manner? Such a way of approaching the text is presumptuous because it assumes that we already know more than the text and can correct the text based upon extra-textual theological commitment or linguistic practices.
A more promising solution has been suggested often. God speaks to motivate repentance, knowing all along that the people will repent. Godâ€™s statements about his intentions always imply a conditional statement and an unstated clause about his knowledge of what will really occur. This approach suggests that there is always an implicit condition in all of Godâ€™s assertions about his intentions conditioned upon the repentance of the people. Such an approach is buttressed by Jeremiah 18:7-10 which states:
Sometimes I threaten to uproot and tear down and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation which I have threatened turns from its evil, I also repent of the evil which I threatened to do. Sometimes, again, I promise to build up and plant a nation or kingdom. But if that nation does what is evil in my eyes, refusing to obey my voice, I repent of the good with which I promised to bless it. (NAB)
So all of Godâ€™s threats and promises are conditional on what the people do. In and of itself such a position seems to severely undermine the classical view which relies on absolute decrees which are not contingent on anything done by humans. If God knows what the future is or cannot be influenced to change what he already knows will occur, then there are no such conditions. However, John Piper suggests that such a view is not inconsistent with a more moderate view of divine decrees that admits God can change his intentions but which does not adopt the open theists view.
It is entirely possible to see the â€˜planâ€™ of God here to be the thought or intention of his mind that went something like this: â€˜I will bring calamity against a people that is evil and unrepentant.â€™ This is true and sincere. In other words, Godâ€™s â€˜planâ€™ or â€˜intentionâ€™ or â€˜thoughtâ€™ or â€˜mindâ€™ may simply be such a fixed resolve in his mind. If the people repent, Godâ€™s resolve or â€˜planâ€™ or intention toward that people changes, that is what is meant by his relenting or his repenting. This does not necessarily mean he has not foreknown tis change in his â€˜plan.â€™ In fact, the expression of his resolve to punish the kind of people he sees may be the means he uses to bring about the change in them that he foreknows so that his own change of resolve will accord with their new condition.
Piper agrees that there is a real change in Godâ€™s mind, so that God is not immutable in the classical sense. But he argues that such an admission does not mean that lacks foreknowledge: â€œI say that there is a real change in Godâ€™s mind, but that this does not imply a lack of foreknowledge. God can express an intention or a resolve toward a people that accords with what is true now, all the while knowing that this condition will not be true in the future and that his resolve will also be different when their condition is differentâ€¦ God speaks this way owing to the fact that he really means for his word to be the means of bringing about changes in people to which he himself responds in way that he knows he will.â€
Piper applies this reasoning to the text in Jonah and suggests that Godâ€™s unconditional declaration that Ninevah would be overthrown was in reality based on a condition of repentance â€œthat if the Ninevites meet, they will be spared.â€ So Jonah 3:4 should be read with the implicit condition, which if made explicit would say: â€œYet forty days and Ninevah will be overthrown unless you repent.â€ The people of Ninevah repented, so God was not mistaken and the prophecy by Jonah was accurate because, Piper claims, all such prophecies of threat of destruction must be understood to contain such a conditional clause as suggested by Jeremiah 18:7-10. Yet it seems fairly clear that there is in reality no change in Godâ€™s intentions as Piper claims. All along God knew that Ninevah would repent and all along he intended that Jonahâ€™s prophecy would be the catalyst to bring about that repentance. God intended to relent when Ninevah repented all along. However, it also follows that what Jonah declared was neither true nor an accurate reflection of Godâ€™s intention. Ninevah was not overthrown in forty days, as Jonah declared it would be. Nor did God ever intend that it would be; rather, he intended and knew that Ninevah would repent and that Ninevah would not be destroyed.
Piperâ€™s strategy doesnâ€™t do justice to the text. There is no such conditional stated in the text of Jonah 3:4. What Jonah asserted did not come to pass. However, barring arguments of the uselessness of simple foreknowledge or the circularity arguments against middle knowledge, given the text alone as a guide it is at least possible that God intended the people to repent and knew that his threat through Jonah would bring it about. Perhaps the Israelites had such an implicit understanding as suggested by Jeremiah. The absolute prophecy of destruction of Ninevah may then be read as a conditional because all prophecies are conditional. Even if God knows the future, it may be the case that God knows of the repentance which his prophecy brings about.
However, this strategy fails miserably in the context of Exodus 32. If we alter Exodus 32:10 along the lines suggested by Piper, it reads as follows with implicit assertions made explicit: â€œNow therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless they repent â€” and I know that they wonâ€™t repent.â€ There is a problem with Piperâ€™s suggested strategy, however. The Israelites did not repent and if God knew the future, then God knew they wouldnâ€™t repent. However, God changes his intentions anyway. So Godâ€™s change of intentions cannot be explained by Israelâ€™s repentance. Godâ€™s change of intentions was not occasioned by the repentance of Israel, but by Mosesâ€™s steadfast stand for his people and willingness to ask God to relent what he had declared. So the actual change is not about repentance but about Mosesâ€™s argument. So Exodus 32:10 must be changed as follows: â€œNow therefore leave me alone [even though I know that you will not leave me alone but argue against what I am now suggesting], that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless you argue with me to not do so â€“ as you are now doing and I know that I will not do what I am now saying I will.â€ The problem with amending Exodus 32 along the lines suggested by Piper is that it results in not merely non-sense, but in God flatly contradicting what he declares his intentions to be. It also results in the dialogue becoming disgenuine and contrived.
There are thus four reasons why such an â€œanthropomorphic metaphorâ€ argument should be resisted. First, there are no competent guides or basis for deciding when texts should be read literally or metaphorically. These texts donâ€™t suggest that they should be read metaphorically but give every indication of attempting to actually express Godâ€™s intentions and actions. Second, such a way of reading scripture makes it impossible for scripture to reveal anything about God to us. Rather, we impose a prior understanding on the text and that prior understanding controls what the text can mean. Third, these texts become nonsense when read as a mere metaphor or with assumed implicit conditions governed by classical theological presuppositions. Finally, the text is not allowed to speak but is read in way that requires it to say what it does not.