When Calvinists call verses anthropomorphic, it is always good to point out that they cannot even define anthropomorphism intelligibly. From Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity:

Bruce Ware offers a working definition of anthropomorphism: “A given ascription to God may rightly be understood as anthropomorphic when Scripture clearly presents God as transcending the very human or finite features it elsewhere attributes to him.”

This is not a definition in any sense of the word, not even a “working definition”. This actually just describes Calvinists methodology of when to call verses anthropomorphic. This does not tell the reader what an anthropomorphism actually does or how it is used. It fails to describe anything. A proper definition describes what the idiom accomplishes. Take for example a hyperbole:

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.

When a hyperbole is used it is an exaggeration used to evoke strong feelings. If I said “I am so hungry that I could eat a horse”, what I am communicating is that I am hungrier than usual. There is no equivalent definition for anthropomorphism. When an anthropomorphism is used, what is it and what does it do? From the same book, a second attempt to define anthropomorphism:

Therefor, I propose the following definition of anthropomorphism, a definition that emerges from the soil of Scriptures: Because God formed Adam from the “dust of the earth” and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, making him in his own image and likeness, God makes himself known to his creatures in their likeness, as if he wears both their form and qualities, when in fact they wear his likeness.

So what the author is saying is that an anthropomorphism is a verse that means the opposite of what it says. When the Bible says God repented of making man, it means God never repents but man repents of other things sometimes. When God repents of making Saul the king, it means God never repents but man repents of other things sometimes. This is not a intelligible definition. It does not explain what the reader is to understand from the text or how the reader is to gain any semblance of reality from the idiom. When God is said to repent, the Calvinist responds by saying God never repents. Anthropomorphisms then, are just “meaningless statements” that communicate nothing to the reader.

If the Open Theists were to make up a word “petramorphism” and then just claim each verse that the Calvinists use for “immutability” was merely a “petramorphism”, no one would take the claim seriously. But Calvinists make up a concept foreign to human language, impose it on any verse that contradicts their image of God, and they are allowed to get away with it.

If a verse is idiomatic, it has meaning.

Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

What is the author communicating to the reader?
What should the reader understand from this?
What is the context of the verse and does the idiom make sense in context?
Are there any other contextual statements that reinforce idiomatic interpretation?

Do not let Calvinists get away with calling verses anthropomorphisms.

god is open

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, Figures of Speech, God, Immutablility, Open Theism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to anthropomorphisms

  1. Very well put! I love the statement on the picture lol..

  2. Pingback: hermeneutics | reality is not optional

  3. Pingback: Apologetics Thursday – Responding to Eight Criticisms | God is Open

  4. Tom Torbeyns says:

    A big “AMEN!” to this post Chris Fisher! :-)

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