Dr. Greg Boyd is a well-known open theist. Open theists do not believe in God’s omniscience classically defined. They believe that God does not know the future in as much as the future depends upon the choices that will be made by His free creatures. Of course, this is a radical (and I believe dangerous) innovation in the doctrine of God that has wide-ranging implications.
Last month, I wrote a short blog post on the collapse of the I-35 bridge. In it, I took issue with Boyd‘s open theist view of how God relates to calamities, and I did so using the book of Job as a case study. I recently found out that Boyd has a lengthy response to what I wrote in which he refutes my interpretation of Job, “The 35W Bridge Collapse and the Book of Job.”
I believe that Boyd’s reading of Job has serious problems. I will respond to each of his points in turn.
1. Satan Is Not Under God’s Control
Boyd argues that “the point of the passage is to show that, unlike the sons of God (the angels), Satan is not under Yahweh’s control.” Boyd contends that God didn’t control Satan in the book of Job because it was evident that God didn’t even know where Satan was before he appears with the “sons of God” in Job 1:6. That’s why God has to ask Satan in Job 1:7, “Where have you come from?”
Boyd wrongly assumes that when God asks a question it must mean that God doesn’t know the answer to the question. In response to this I would simply point out that it is not valid to conclude that every question implies a need for information on the part of the questioner. Consider what happens when the Bible records stories of God asking questions. When God asks questions in the Bible, does He do so because He needs to learn something?
Consider, for instance, the first questions that God asks in the Bible. After Adam and Eve sin, God comes looking for them, and He asks, “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:9-12). If we use Boyd’s hermeneutic with these questions, then we would have to assume that God is asking these questions because He needs some information so He’ll know what to do next. It’s not merely that God doesn’t know the future choices of His free creatures (as in open theism). God doesn’t know the decisions that His creatures have already made! Is that really a valid implication to draw from God’s questions in Genesis 3? I think not.
What about Jesus’ question to Philip in John 6:5 just before He feeds the 5,000: “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” Is Jesus asking this question because He needs to learn something? No. The very next verse says, “And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” Jesus knew all along what the answer to the question was. It was Philip who didn’t know the answer.
But we don’t have to go outside of the book of Job for examples of God’s questions. Consider God’s questions to Job in 38:2, 4: “Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge. . . Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth.” Every reader understands that God is not asking these questions because He needs to get information from Job. God asks the questions in order to reveal truth to Job.
And so it is with God’s questions. It is simply a straining of language to assume that every question implies a deficiency of knowledge on the part of the questioner. As you can see, quite often the opposite is the case. So I think it is not very plausible to argue that God’s question to Satan in Job 1:6 implies that God didn’t know where Satan had been. It’s not sound hermeneutically to read divine ignorance into God’s questions. The texts just don’t work that way.
2. The Author of Job Does Not Endorse Job’s Theology
Boyd refutes the idea that the narrator of Job endorses Job’s words. I argued that in Job, it’s very clear that Satan caused all of Job’s suffering. It’s also very clear that God controls every move Satan makesâ€”such that when Job says that “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21), the narrator says that “in all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10; cf. 1:22). In other words, even though Satan was at work to destroy Job’s life through a series of calamities, Job did not err when he said that the Lord was ultimately behind everything that happened to him.
Boyd acknowledges that the narrator says that Job “did not sin with his lips.” But Boyd says that phrase means that “Yahweh commended Job for being honest, not for speaking theological truth.” He bases this conclusion on the use of the Hebrew word koon (“right”) in Job 42:7. The problem with that interpretation is that the Hebrew word in question does not appear in Job 1 or 2. It’s not relevant to the interpretation of Job 1:22 and 2:10 in the way Boyd describes. The word is not even in those verses. In any case, even in Job 42:7, it’s unlikely that koon means “being honest” over and against “speaking theological truth” (the LXX’s rendering of the term does not favor Boyd’s view).
3. Job Often Errs When He Speaks
Boyd gives a litany of examples from the book of Job in which Job says the wrong thing. Job says so many wrong things that God rebukes him at the end of it (see Job 38:1ff). From this, Boyd concludes that we cannot hold Job’s opinions as reliable. Thus when Job says that the “Lord gives and the Lord takes away,” he might be wrong.
My response to Boyd’s list is that just because Job is wrong some of the time doesn’t mean he’s wrong all of the time. I never said that Job’s speech is blameless throughout the book. But the narrator thinks it’s blameless in Job 1:22 and 2:10. Thus the narrator affirms that the Lord gives and takes away and that the Lord brings good times and adversity (cf., 1:21 and 2:9).
4. God Rebukes Job for Saying God Controls Everything
Boyd writes, “If God was controlling everything, there’d be no point for God to show up at the end of the book and correct Job and his friends â€“ for this is basically the theology they both espouse.” I would contend, however, that God rebukes Job not because Job recognized His sovereign control over everything, but because Job “reproved” and “condemned” God (Job 40:1, 8 ). Job did not sin with his lips in chapters 1 and 2. But Job made all kinds of mistakes with his speech in the rest of the book. The latter foul-ups on Job’s part are the basis for God’s reproof of Job at the end of the book. Job is never faulted for affirming God’s sovereignty.
There is indeed much more that could be said on each of these points, but this post is already too long. My hope is that readers will see that Boyd’s exposition of the book of Job simply will not work. Boyd still has not given a reliable account of how God relates to His fallen creation.