Capital Punishment: Justification for Death Penalties in the Old Testament



Joshua Wu[1]

            In his popular book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins boldly claims that, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”[2] Not surprisingly, many people share Dawkins’ views as a result of their deformed view of the Bible and what it states.

The purpose of this paper is to provide two, non-exhaustive, justifications for Old Testament laws which prescribe the death penalty for certain offences. The paper will begin by addressing some preliminary issues before introducing a two prong justification. Moving on from there, we will consider how it all ties in with Christ, before concluding on what our relationship to the Old Testament law is.


  1. A) Preliminaries

It is pertinent to be aware of some of the offences for which the death penalty is prescribed. In his Dictionary of the Bible, John McKenzie maintains: “The laws of the Pnt prescribe stoning for the following crimes: idolatry (Dt 13:10; 17:5); blasphemy (Lv 24:14; cf 1 K 21:10; Jn 10:33); child sacrifice (Lv 20:2); divination (Lv 20:27); Sabbath violation (Nm 15:32 ff); adultery (Dt 22:22 f; cf Ezk 16:40; 23:47;  Jn 8:4 f); fornication by an unmarried woman (Dt 22:21); rebellion of children (Dt 21:20 f); and the ox that gores (Ex 21:28).”[3]

There are also other offences, wherein stoning isn’t mentioned but where it is commanded that the perpetrators be “put to death”. These are, being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), murder (Exodus 21:12), as well as prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24). John McKenzie argues that “It may be assumed that stoning is the penalty for other crimes in which the manner of execution is not specified.”[4]

What else do we know about stoning? Craig Keener comments that, “Death by stoning was a common mob action throughout the ancient world, but it was a legal form of execution in the Torah …”[5]. Stoning is also the “… most commonly mentioned form of execution in the Bible … it requires all those persons who have been offended to participate. Because it cannot be determined whose individual stone caused the death of the condemned, no one person needed to bear the guilt for the death.”[6]

Interestingly, “Stoning is not mentioned as a form of capital punishment outside the Bible. Ancient Near Eastern law codes list only drowning, burning, impalement, and beheading, and in each case it is an official body, not the community at large, that is charged with carrying out the punishment.”[7] Lastly, Matthew George Easton remarks: “The official Pentateuchal methods of capital punishment were stoning, burning and decapitation by the sword, these being enumerated in their descending order of severity. The Rabbis added a fourth and milder alternative, strangling.”[8]

Continue reading “Capital Punishment: Justification for Death Penalties in the Old Testament”

A Biblical View of the Antichrist


Joshua Wu [1]

Craig Koester notes that “identifying the antichrist with figures of one’s own time became especially common from the twelfth century onward. Examples included Pope Gregory IX (1241) and Innocent IV (d. 1254) as well as the Emperor Frederick II (d. 1250). During the sixteenth century, many Protestants came to identify the papal office itself with the antichrist. Later candidates have ranged from the emperor Napoleon to modern American presidents.”[2] Speculation as to the identity of the antichrist will not be undertaken in this paper, but instead, the parameters of what will be discussed are determined by what Scripture has to say.

In our endeavour, we must be careful not to over focus on the antichrist, as the central theme of the Scriptures is not him/it, but our Lord Jesus Christ. Herman Hoyt rightly points out that “there are … [those] who want to major on this area of prophetic truth to the exclusion of other precious truth, and thus become lopsided.”[3] Despite this, we must not retreat to the other extreme whereby we do not care to know about what the Bible has to say regarding the antichrist.

What this paper intends to do is to provide a succinct introduction to what the Bible says about the matter, first off, by addressing some preliminaries, before delving into an examination of key passages which make explicit and implicit reference to the antichrist. Subsequently, this will be followed up with positive takeaways.


A) Preliminaries

The most crucial starting point would be to define “antichrist” since it will be used throughout this paper. The word “antichrist” comes from the Greek word “antichristos” (αντίχριστος) which is “made up of two words: the prefix anti- [G473], “acting in the place of” and “opposed to” + christos [G5547], “Christ.””[4] Simply put, the antichrist is “the adversary of the messiah”[5] or “an opponent of the Messiah.”[6]

According to Louw and Nida, “the term . . . appears to have become increasingly equivalent to a proper name as the personification of all that was opposed to and contrary to the role and ministry of Christ.”[7]

Continue reading “A Biblical View of the Antichrist”

When did John write Revelation

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Who wrote Revelation is relatively certain. Although not everyone agrees, the most ancient evidence points to the Apostle John. When the apostle John wrote Revelation is far less certain. Unlike books today, no one placed copyright dates in copies of biblical texts! To decide the approximate date when this biblical text was written, scholars compare what’s inside the book with what was happening in the world outside the book. In the case of Revelation, that process results in two primary possibilities.” [1]

 During the reign of Emperor Nero  During the reign of Emperor Domitian
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 54-68.
  • After a fire in Rome, a rumor circulated that Nero had started the fire.
  • According to the ancient historian Tacitus, “To get rid of this report, Nero accused and inflicted exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, the ones called Christians.”
  • This persecution seems to have been limited to the regions around Rome, but it likely affected attitudes toward Christians beyond Rome.
  • Ruled the Roman Empire, AD 81-96
  • Domitian reportedly declared himself to be divine during his lifetime.
  • According to the ancient historian Suetonius, “Domitian issued an encyclical in the name of his governors that declared ‘Our Master and our God bids that this be done.’”
Evidence 1: An ancient inscription

  • A fifth century version of Revelation in the Syriac language refers to the book as “the Revelation given by God to John the Gospel-writer, on the island of Patmos where he was banished by Emperor Nero.” It is possible that this ascription preserves an earlier tradition.
Evidence 1: The testimony of Irenaeus

  • The second-century writer Irenaeus of Lyons – a student of Polycarp, who knew the apostle John – reported that John wrote Revelation while in exile during Domitian’s reign.
Evidence 2: Persecution of Christians

  • It seems that Christians may have been in the early stages of a time of persecution when John wrote Revelation (1:9; 2:2-3; 2:9-10; 2:13; 3:8-10).
  • Nero instigated the first imperial persecution of Christians in AD 64; this persecution lasted until Nero’s death in 68.
Evidence 2: Worship of the Roman emperor

  • Hints can be found throughout Revelation that Christians may have been coerced to worship the emperor (13:4; 13:14-17; 14:9; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4).
  • Nero was never worshipped as divine in his lifetime.
  • Worship of the emperor does seem to have occurred during Domitian’s reign, in the AD 80s and 90s.
  • Coins from Domitian’s reign refer to Domitian as “father of the gods.” An idol of Domitian may have been constructed in the city of Ephesus.
Evidence 3: The temple in Jerusalem

  • If Revelation had been written in the AD 90s, it seems that John might have mentioned the fall of the Jewish temple that occurred in AD 70.
  • The wording of Revelation 11:1-2 suggests to some scholars that the temple of Jerusalem was still standing when John wrote this book.
Evidence 3: The church of Laodicea

  • The description of Laodicea’s self-sufficiency may reflect a time in the AD 80s when the Laodiceans rebuilt their city with no outside assistance after an earthquake (Revelation 3:17).


Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.225

Four Ways Revelation is Viewed

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“The Book of Revelation takes its name from the Greek word found in 1:1, apokalypsis (637), an unveiling, uncovering, or disclosure … Written largely in what has been termed apocalyptic genre, not surprisingly Revelation has yielded the greatest number of divergent interpretations of any NT book.” [1] Today, this article will present an overview of four of the most predominant views which have cropped up.

 Perspectives How Revelation is Viewed
A) Futurist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy primarily about the future end of the world and years leading immediately to the end
  • All or nearly all of Revelation is yet to occur
  • Held to by dispensational premillennialists and some historic premillennialists
B) Historicist
  •  Revelation is a prophecy about church history from the time of John to the end of the world
  • The events in Revelation are viewed as symbolic descriptions of historical events throughout church history

Note: Some futurists understand the Seven Churches (Revelation 1-3) in a historic manner, treating each church as descriptive of a particular era of church history

C) Idealist
  • Revelation is a non-historical and non-prophetic drama about spiritual realities
  • Revelation is viewed as “… hyper-allegories or esoteric parables designed to simply illustrate the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, good and evil, the Church and the world.” [1]
  • Seemed to have originated among ancient Alexandrian theologians, who frequently spiritualised and allegorised biblical text
D) Preterist 
  • Revelation is a prophecy which was fulfilled primarily in the first century AD
  • This view “stresses the immediacy of the book’s message.”
  • Strand #1: Partial Preterism – views most of Revelation as fulfilled in the first century although the final chapters of Revelation describe future events to occur at the end of time
  • Strand #2: Full Preterism – views the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19 as spiritual and occurred in AD 70 when the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Typically held to by amillennialists or postmillennialists

Note: Christians throughout church history have understood full preterism to be a heresy


Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible NIV (1996), p.1447

Four Perspectives on Phrases In Daniel 9:26-27

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

All the four perspectives that we will examine later, agree that the Anointed One in Daniel 9:25-26 is Jesus. “He was “cut off but not for himself,” indicating that he was a sacrifice for the sins of his people.” [1] Now, let us look at Daniel 9:26-27 (New International Version) before seeing how certain phrases in those verses have been interpreted.

26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. [2] 

 Perspectives Who is the “ruler who is to come”? (Daniel 9:26)
A)  Jesus was the ruler or prince who was :yet to come” when Daniel wrote these words. By rejecting Jesus, the Jewish people – “the people of the ruler who is yet to come” – brought about the destruction of their temple in AD 70.
B)  The Roman general Titus was the ruler who was “yet to come”
C)  The ruler “yet to come” is a future Antichrist who will appear at the end of time to deceive and to destroy
D)  The ruler “yet to come” is a future Antichrist who will appear in the end ties to deceive the Jewish people


 Perspectives  How will “sacrifice and offering” come to an end? (Daniel 9:27)
A)  Halfway through the seventieth seven (or perhaps at the end of the seventieth seven), Jesus was crucified. Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death marked the end of any need for sacrifices and offerings. His death also brought about a new covenant “with many.”
B)  The Roman army, under the command of Titus, ended sacrifices and offerings through the destruction of the temple in AD 70
C)  After the first half of the seventieth seven, Jesus was crucified. Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death marked the end of any need for sacrifices and offerings. The second half of the seventieth seven will occur when the Antichrist appear near the end of time
D)  The entire seventieth seven is the time of the future “great tribulation.” A “great parenthesis” of time stands between the sixty-ninth and seventieth sevens. Before of during the first part of the seventieth “week,” a new temple will be built. The Antichrist will make a covenant with the nation of Israel guaranteeing safety and security. In the middle of the final “week,” the Antichrist will break his pact and end sacrifices and offerings.


 Perspectives  What is the “abomination that causes desolation”? (Daniel 9:27)
A)  The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus, the true temple of God (see John 2:19-21). In the years following the seventieth seven, certain Jewish leaders rebelled against the Romans, fought among themselves and turned their own people against one another. All of these deeds, beginning with the abomination of rejecting Jesus, resulted in the desolating destruction of the Jewish temple.
B)  Titus and his soldiers defiled the Jewish temple, looted the treasury, and placed the Roman eagle in front of the temple.
C)  The Antichrist will persecute God’s people and deal falsely with them.
D)  The Antichrist will present himself in the temple as divine.

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.170


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Four Views of the Kingdom of God

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“When Jesus arrived on the scene, he immediately began proclaiming the message of a new kingdom: “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) …

They [the religious leaders] feared that, if Jesus continued to proclaim this royal domain, the Romans would destroy their temple and any hope for a kingdom (John 11:47-48).

But this kingdom was different. He [Jesus] never provided a detailed verbal definition of his kingdom. Instead, he told stories – and his parables rarely included the typical trappings of kingship. There were no horses or chariots or battles in these stories. Instead, Jesus told about a woman who was kneading some dough, a farmer whose neighbor mixed weeds with his wheat, and a man who planted some mustard seeds (Matthew 24:24-33).” [1]

We will now consider four of the popularly advocated and held to views of the kingdom of God

  1. Amillennialism
  2. Postmillennialism
  3. Historical Premillennialism
  4. Dispensational Premillennialism


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[1] Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), p.113


  • Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011)

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How God Will Fulfill His Promises to Abraham and Israel

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

What were God’s promises to Abraham?

  1. To make a great nation from Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:1-3)
  2. To give to Abraham’s descendants all the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18-21)
  3. To make Abraham a father of many nations (Genesis 17:2-9)
A) Dispensational i) Quick Summary: God has two plans with two people, the church and Israel. God will fulfill His promises to Abraham and Israel by giving to ethnic Jews the land that He promised to Abraham

“Throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.” [1]

ii) Specifics

  1. Fulfillment in the future through the nation of Israel: At some point in the future, physical descendants of the ancient Israelite people will possess the land God promised to Abraham

iii) Different ways someone can be a child of Abraham [2]

  1. Through physical descent: The Jewish people are children of Abraham through natural lineage from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  2. Through spiritual adoption: Believers in Jesus Christ are children to Abraham through a spiritual lineage. God’s purpose in the spiritual lineage is separate from His purpose and work with the nation of Israel.

The offer of grace to Gentiles was “an unexpected and unpredicted” spiritual parenthesis within God’s work with the physical descendants of Abraham. [3]

B) Covenantal   i) Quick Summary: God has one plan with one people, with one covenant of grace which extends from the fall of humanity to the end of time. God’s work with Israel was preparatory for His work with the church

ii) Differing opinions amongst covenantal theologians on the specifics:

  1. Fulfillment during King Soloman’s reign: According to 1 Kings 4:21, Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt. This fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18
  2. A promise with a condition: God promised that the descendants of Abraham would receive the land regardless of their deeds (Deuteronomy 9:5) but would retain the land only if they remained faithful to their God (Joshua 23:15-16). When the Israelites turned to other gods, they lost this aspect of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 4:26)
  3. Fulfillment through the church:  The church has superseded Israel as God’s people. God is fulfilling His promises to the Jewish people through the church. Verse referred to include Galatians 6:16, James 1:1, Matthew 21:43)

Because the Jewish people had not               turned to Jesus, “God changed his                 covenant – that is, he bestowed the               inheritance of eternal life on foreign           nations – and collected to himself a               more faithful people.” [4]

C) New Covenantal  i) Quick Summary: God has one purpose that He has worked out through multiple covenants. God’s work with Abraham and Israel was a temporary picture of what God has already purposed to do in Jesus. God’s promises to Abraham find their fulfillment in Jesus

“The [Old Testament] law was a parable, a sketch. The gospel became the explanation of the law and its fulfillment.” [5]

ii) Specifics

  1. Old covenant as a temporary picture of the new covenant: The covenant with Abraham and Israel was intended to be fulfilled in Jesus and then to pass away (Hebrews 3:5, 8:5-13, 9:8-10, 10:9). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.
  2. Fulfillment in Jesus Christ: God’s promise was made primarily to one offspring of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah (Genesis 12:7; Galatians 3:16). The present and future reign of Jesus over all the earth fulfills God’s promise to Abraham.

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (1951), p.107

[2] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (2010), p.145

[3] John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (2010)

[4] Lactanius, Divinarum Institutionum, 4:11

[5] Melito of Sardis, Peri Pascha, pp. 39-45

Source: Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), pp.54, 57-63

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Views on Divine Providence

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

This article is a summary of the four views on divine providence which are expressed in Zondervan’s Four Views on Divine Providence (2011). The four views presented & interacted with are as follows:

  1. God Causes All Things
  2. God Directs All Things
  3. God Controls By Liberating
  4. God Limits His Control
Perspective  Proponent & Overview
 A) God Causes All Things  i) Proponent

Paul Kjoss Helseth

ii) Overview

Dennis W. Jowers: “… God exercises comprehensive control over even the minutest aspects of his creatures’ activities” [1]

The Westminster Confession of Faith: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” [2]

B.B. Warfield: “There is nothing that is, and nothing that comes to pass, that [God] has not first decreed and then brought to pass by His creation or providence” [3]

Paul Kjoss Helseth: “… particular evils happen because he [God] ordained that they would, and he did so for reasons that, while ultimately inscrutable, nevertheless serve to conform believers more and more to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30) and, in the process, to cultivate in them the Christian virtues of perseverance, proven character, and hope (Rom. 5:1-5)” [4]

B) God Directs All Things  i) Proponent

William Lane Craig

ii) Overview

Dennis W. Jowers: “… God employs “middle knowledge”, his knowledge of what human beings would decide to do under any conceivable set of circumstances, to control creaturely affairs without depriving human beings of libertarian freedom.” [1], or

William Lane Craig: “… by employing his hypothetical knowledge, God can plan a world down to the last detail and yet do so without annihilating creaturely freedom, since God already factored into the equation what people would do freely under various circumstances.” [5]

William Lane Craig: “We may formulate this argument as follows:

  1. If there are counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, then God knows these truths
  2. There are true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom
  3. If God know true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, God knows them either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree
  4. Counterfactuals of creaturely freedom cannot be known only logically posterior to the divine creative decree

From premises 1 and 2, it follows logically that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom

From premises 3 and 5, it follows that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely divine freedom either logically prior to the divine creative decree or only logically posterior to the divine creative decree

And from premises 4 and 6, it follows that

  1. Therefore, God knows true counterfactuals of creaturely freedom logically prior to the divine creative decree” [6]

William Lane Craig: “… the Molinists, by placing God’s hypothetical knowledge of creaturely freedom by exempting counterfactual truths about creaturely choices from God’s decree. In the same way the necessary truths like 2 + 2 = 4 are prior to and therefore independent of God’s decree, so counterfactual truths about how creatures would freely choose under various circumstances are prior to and independent of God’s decree.” [5]

William Lane Craig: “He [God] is thus like a Grand Master who is playing an opponent whom he knows so well that he knows every move his opponent would make in response to his own moves. Such a chess player could not actualize just any possible match, given his opponent’s freedom, but he could actualize any feasible match.” [7]

William Lane Craig: “Via his middle knowledge, then, God can have complete knowledge of both conditional future contingents and absolute future contingents. Such knowledge gives him sweeping sovereignty over the affairs of men. Yet such an account of God’s knowledge is wholly compatible with human freedom, since the circumstances envisioned in counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are nondetermining and, hence, freedom-preserving.” [8]

C) God Controls By Liberating  i) Proponent

Ron Highfield

ii) Overview

a) By Ron Highfield

“Through the Word and the Spirit, God gives real and lasting efficacy to human action by empowering and directing all things, including human freedom, to their God-appointed end … God frees human freedom from the futility of its blind groping and enables it to achieve its end.” [9]

“In the explicit teaching of the New Testament, the fullness of freedom is not the beginning but the goal, of human life. It is not the power to choose between this and that or between good and evil; it is the power for, and the actual state of, loving God perfectly and willing his will invariably.” [10]

God’s providential and saving actions – even when they overrule and defeat our misguided and sinful intentions – are designed to liberate us from sin and death. Even if we cannot explain how God works in providence to accomplish his will perfectly, we can now see that the objection that such a view of providence contradicts human freedom and responsibility – however enticing to philosophical intuition – possesses no biblical warrant.” [10]

“… God does not do evil when he works in and through and after stupid, ignorant, and evil human acts. God overcomes the stupidity, ignorance, and evil to accomplish his good will perfectly.” [11]

 D) God Limits His Control  i) Proponent

Gregory Boyd

ii) Overview

a) By Gregory Boyd

“While there is never a question whether these foes [the forces of evil] will be ultimately vanquished by the work of Christ, it is also perfectly clear in the Gospels, as throughout the entire Bible, that these cosmic foes genuinely resist the reign of God and exercise a formidable destructive influence in the world today.” [12]

“… Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane … asked if it was possible for the Father to alter the divine plan to accomplish the mission in some way that avoided the hellish spiritual and physical agony of the cross (Matt. 26:39). In this particular instance, of course, it was not possible. Yet this prayer – by the only one who truly knows the Father (Matt. 11:27) – reveals that God is in principle open to modifying his plans in response to human input, as we find him doing throughout the biblical narrative (e.g., Ex. 32:12-14)” [13]

“God’s decision to create a cosmos that was capable of love and that was, therefore, populated with free agents was also a decision to create and govern a world he could not unilaterally control.” [14]

“To the extent that God gives an agent free will, he cannot meticulously control what that agent does. Yet the “cannot” in this statement is not a matter of insufficient power, for God remains all-powerful. It rather is simply a matter of definition. Just as God cannot create a round triangle or a married bachelor, so too he cannot meticulously control free agents.” [15]

“God’s knowledge of what will come to pass in the future is incomprehensibly superior to ours, simply because he perfectly knows all past and present variables that effect what comes to pass, including his own will. Yet, amid all the things we do not have say-so over, the open view holds that free agents have (or at least had) some degree of say-so, however slight it may be in the total scheme of things.” [16]

“In contrast to the classical view that assumed the future could be exhaustively described by propositions asserting what will or will not come to pass, the open view holds that, insofar as agents face ontological possibilities, the future must be described by propositions asserting what might and might not come to pass.” [17]

“Since an omniscient God must know the truth-value of all propositions, in other words, he must know the truth value of “might” propositions as well as “will” propositions.” [17]

“… what it is about divine omniscience that renders it metaphysically impossible for God ever to create a world in which the future was causally open to alternate possibilities and therefore known by God as such?” [18]

“While Scripture certainly depicts aspects of the future as settled either in God’s mind (foreknowledge) or by God’s will (predestination), no Scripture forces the conclusion that the future is exhaustively settled, let alone necessarily settled from all eternity.” [19]

“The very fact that Jesus inquired [in Matt. 26:39, 42] about this possibility presumes that it is in principle possible for God to change his mind in response to prayer. Yet it is hard to see how God could ever modify his plans in the flow of history if every one of his plans had been unalterably settled from all eternity.” [20]

“Similarly, if the future is eternally settled in God’s mind and/or by God’s will, it is challenging to see how God could genuinely regret some of his decisions in light of how events played themselves out (Gen. 6:6-7; 1 Sam 15:11, 35)” [21]

“… if the future is eternally settled, it is difficult to see how God could express surprise over how humans behave, and even confess several times that he expected people to act differently (e.g., Jer. 3:7, 19; Isa. 5:1-5).” [21]

“Along the same lines, it is quite hard to understand why Scripture on numerous occasions would depict God as testing people to see how they would choose if their choices were settled in eternity before their testing (e.g., Deut. 8:2; 13:1-3)” [21]

“So too, it is not clear how Scripture could encourage us to speed up the time of the Lord’s return by how we live if the exact time of his return was eternally set in stone (2 Peter 3:11-12).” [21]

“God, the author of the adventure of creation, as it were, predetermines the overall structure of the adventure as well as all the possible story lines and all the possible endings within this adventure. Moreover, if God predestines certain events to take place if certain story lines are chosen and other events to take place regardless of what story lines are chosen. Yet within this predetermined structure, free agents  are empowered with a certain amount of say-so as to which of the many possible story lines is actualised.” [22]

“… an infinitely intelligent God is as prepared for every one of any number of possible future events as he would be for a single future event that was certain to take place.” [23]

“While not everything happens for a divine purpose, in the open view, everything happens with a divine purpose, for God from eternity has been preparing a response to each and every possible event in case it takes place. It is evident, then, that the God of open theism knows the future just as effectively as the God of classical theism, who faces an eternally settled future.” [24]

Continue reading “Views on Divine Providence”

Views on the Atonement

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Whereas the orthodox view concerning Jesus Christ as one person in two natures was established in the early creeds of Christendom, there was at no time the elaboration of an official view of the Atonement. The most that was said in this regard was that Christ “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.”” [1]

Below we will examine different views of the atonement which have cropped up through the ages. Specific ones considered include

i) Ransom to Satan
ii) Satisfaction to God
iii) Moral Influence on Man
iv)  Governmental Theory

Overview & Proponents
A) Ransom to Satan 1) Overview: The atonement is “a victory over Satan procured through the ransom of Christ.” [1], or

“… the ransom Christ paid to redeem us was paid to Satan, in whose kingdom all people were by virtue of sin.” [2]

2) Those who held to this view

“Among those who, in varying ways, set forward this view were Origen (c. 185-254), Gregory of Nyssa (331-96), Augustine (in part) (345-430), and Pope Gregory the Great (540-604).” [1]

Peter Lombard (c. 1100-1164)

B) Satisfaction to God  1) Overview: God became man in Jesus Christ to render proper satisfaction to the impugned honor of God.

2) Those who held to this view

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): “Every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God” [3]

C) Moral Influence on man  1) Overview: The suffering and death of Christ is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love and mercy which intends to evoke from us the response of love [4], or

It hold that “God did not require the payment of penalty for sin, but that Christ’s death was simply a way in which God showed how much he loved human beings by identifying with their sufferings, even to the point of death. Christ’s death therefore becomes a great teaching example that shows God’s love to us and draws from us a grateful response, so that in loving him we are forgiven. ” [2]

2) Those who held to this view

Peter Abelard (1079-1142): “God in Christ has united our human nature to himself and, by suffering in that same nature, has demonstrated to us that perfection of love … So we, through his grace, are joined to him as closely as to our neighbor by an indissoluble bond of affection.” [5]

D) Governmental Theory  1) Overview: Christ’s death was a demonstration of the fact that God’s laws had been broken, and as the moral lawgiver and governor of the universe, some kind of penalty would be required whenever His laws were broken [6], or

God is viewed as the “Lawgiver who both enacts and sustains law in the universe … The Law states unequivocally: “The soul that sins shall die.” Strict justice requires the eternal death of sinners.” [21]

2) Those who held to this view

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)


A) Ransom to Satan “Since Jesus had said he came to “give his life as a ransom for many,” there must have been someone to whom the ransom was paid. The answer, these churchmen held, was Satan, since he held humanity captive until Christ came.

From this perspective the death of Christ was a kind of deal worked out between God and the devil, namely that He would turn over His Son to Satan in exchange for the release of all the souls held captive by him.

Hence when Christ died on the cross and descended into hell, Satan thought he had his price at last. However (and here Satan the ancient deceiver was himself deceived), try as hard as he might, he could not hold Christ fast. Christ’s humanity he sought to destroy, but His divinity Satan could not overcome.” [1]

B) Satisfaction to God “This dishonor of God cannot simply be overlooked or forgiven; it calls for either punishment or satisfaction on the part of the sinner.

However, if punishment is not to occur and satisfaction instead is to be made and sin put away, that satisfaction cannot be accomplished by man because his sin against the infinite God is infinite in character. Accordingly only one who is God can provide this vast satisfaction.

But since man owes it, it must also come from within humanity. This is why God became man in Jesus Christ to make an offering sufficient to satisfy God’s honor.” [7]

C) Moral Influence on man Abelard:  “We are impartially justified by this manifestation of God’s grace.” [5]

“Our redemption through Christ’s suffering is that deeper affection in us which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but also wins for us the true liberty of sons of God, so that we do all things out of love rather than fear …” [8]

Abelard: “… the obstacle [between God and man] rests entirely in man. All that is needed is for man truly to behold the love and benevolence of God and allow his hardened heart to be transformed thereby.” [4]

“In the Incarnation and the Cross we see a demonstration of God’s overwhelming love. This vision moves us to gratitude and love and therefore incites repentance, faith, and a desire to change our behaviour.” [19]

D) Governmental Theory “… God inflicted pain on Christ for the sins of the world in order to uphold his justice and holiness. Christ’s suffering was equivalent to any sinner’s deserved punishment so that God could forgive while at the same time being wholly just and holy.” [9]

Christ’s death was “a public example of the depth of sin and the lengths to which God would go to uphold the moral order of the universe.” [22]

“The effects of His death do not bear on us directly, only secondarily, in that Christ did not die in our place but only in our behalf. The primary focus was not saving sinners but upholding the Law. In the Cross, God showed He can abominate lawlessness and at the same time maintain the Law and forgive the lawless.” [21]


Continue reading “Views on the Atonement”

Ways of Interpreting the Bible

[Articles in the Multiple Views series are intended to present various views held by Christians, in an objective and unbiased manner]

“Over the centuries, Jewish and Christian scholars have developed different ways of interpreting the Bible. Jewish rabbis living around the time of Jesus developed an elaborate set of rules to help them interpret their sacred texts. Among early Christian writers, there were two main schools of thought about biblical interpretation.

Those who studied the Bible in Egypt tended to favour more symbolic interpretations. Those who studied in what is now Turkey, however, preferred more literal, historical readings.

A monk called John Cassian (360–435 AD), took the discussion to the next level by bringing both kinds of interpretation together. He identified four ways in which the Bible could be understood: the literal, the symbolic, the ethical and the mystical. By the Middle Ages, these four methods of interpretation (or ‘senses’) had become fairly standard among Christians.” [1]

Cassian’s “explanation of the four senses of Scripture …, derived from Origen’s three senses, was the basis for the standard fourfold method of Biblical interpretation in the West until the Enlightenment.” [2]

Method, Example, and Challenges
A) Literal Interpretation – Historical-Grammatical-Literalistic Meaning  i) Method: Take every part of the text at its most literal meaning unless the immediate context makes this meaning impossible

ii) Example: “Temple” must be seen as a physical building

iii) Challenges: Sometimes the larger context of the literary genre suggests a broader range of meanings for a word or idea. Not every literary genre was intended to be taken literalistically. May lead to reading certain texts like historical narratives even when those texts were not intended as historical accounts.

B) Literal Interpretation – Historical-Grammatical-Rhetorical Meaning  i) Method: Seek the meaning intended by the original human authors in their historical contexts as conveyed through the Holy Spirit superintended their words and choice of genre. This does not exclude a later fulfillment of a text in a fuller and better way than what the original human author had in mind

ii) Example: “Temple” is seen as the physical building in historical genres and contexts; but in other genres, “temple” might, for example, symbolize the people of God as God’s dwelling place

iii) Challenges: In some cases, it can be difficult to identify the historical context correctly; in other instances, it can be a challenge to understand the nuances of a particular literary genre in its historical context, especially if a text combines different literary genres

C) Moral Interpretation – Ethical Meaning  i) Method: Seek the underlying moral in each biblical story.

“It involves reading between the lines of a Bible passage or verse to see how it applies to daily life. In Jewish circles this was (and is) known as midrash.” [1]

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize  the innermost part of the human soul.

In 1 Corinthians 9, the apostle Paul, “quotes a saying from the Old Testament … about oxen and then ‘explains’ what the text actually implied on an ethical level (i.e. that apostles have the right to financial support).” [1]

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can lead to reading Scripture as a series of stories to improve our morals instead of seeing that all of Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ and that human morals can never measure up to God’s perfect standard

D) Spiritual Interpretation – Tropological (Spiritual) Meaning  i) Method: Looks for ways in which parts of the story might prefigure or relate typologically to the life and ministry of Jesus

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize the people of God or the church, even in historical texts where this could not have fallen within the original author’s range of intent.

“The apostle Paul wrote that the story about Abraham and his two wives, Hagar and Sarah, could be read allegorically. He interpreted it to refer to the difficult relationship between Jewish people and Christians of his time (Galatians 4.22–31).

This type of interpretation was popular in the early Church. Many, for example, gave Christian meanings to details from the book of Joshua (e.g. ‘crossing the river Jordan to the Promised Land’ was about baptism, the ‘red rope of Rahab’ symbolised the blood of Christ etc.)” [1]

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can allow the interpreter to read ideas into the text completely unrelated to the original author’s intent, allowing the interpreter rather than the intent of the author to dictate the meaning of Scripture

E) Spiritual Interpretation – Anagogical (Heavenly) Meaning  i) Method: Looks for ways in which parts of the story might relate allegorically to the believers union with God

ii) Example: “Temple” might symbolize union with God in heaven.

iii) Challenges: If historical-grammatical-rhetorical interpretation does not remain primary, can allow the interpreter to read ideas into the text completely unrelated to the original author’s intent, allowing the interpreter rather than the intent of the author to dictate the meaning of Scripture

[1] (accessed on 15th June 2017)

[2] Richard Lischer, “The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present” (2002), p.182


  • Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (2011), pp.22-23
  • Richard Lischer, “The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present” (2002)
  • BibleSociety.Org’s “How Can The Bible Be Interpreted?”

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