Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Divine dotage

 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth” (Gen 9:11-17). 

What's striking about this passage is how the rainbow functions as a mnemonic cue to remind God of his covenant with Noah. Now, classical theists automatically interpret that as an anthropomorphism. However, open theists don't have that luxury. They take a dim view of anthropomorphic interpretations. And it's hard to see how they could consistently construe this passage as anthropomorphic, in contrast to their prooftexts for open theism. 

But consider the implications of that. The open theist God is so forgetful that he needs periodic rainbows to jog his faulty recollection that he made a covenant with Noah. And that's all that stands between us and another cataclysmic flood that might wipe out the entire human race.

If God needs the rainbow to prompt his recollection of the Noahic covenant, what about new covenant? Will we have to continue practicing baptism and the eucharist in the world to come so that God doesn't forget his new covenantal promises?

Or take this passage:

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins (Isa 43:25).

Once again, classical theists interpret the second clause anthropomorphically, but open theist hermeneutics disavows that move. Consider how much human history is inwoven with sin. How many events are either sins or caused by sins. Consider how much of the past God would have to forget to literally forget our sins. Like someone with senile dementia whose memory is honeycombed with random gaps. 

The Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name. But the open theist God is so forgetful that his failing memory will erase your name from the Book of Life. In open theism, heaven is not merely God's abode, but God's nursing home.

1 comment:

  1. Does the Hebrew word for "remember" necessarily mean "have a cognitive awareness of"? Or is it more nuanced like English, where remember can be thinking about something you haven't necessarily actually forgotten?

    Not that that necessarily solves the problem. Does God continuously think about everything at perfectly peak awareness "at all times," so to speak?