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Stephen N. Williams

What God Doesn't Know

Were the biblical prophecies mere probabilities?

Currently, the classical doctrine of God is being challenged by one wing of the broad evangelical theological constituency. A major contribution from John Sanders, one of its representatives, has now appeared under the title The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence. If Sanders is right, the first chapter of the Gospel According to Luke (vv. 26–38) should be read as follows:

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name of Jesus." [Thinks: "That's the way I'll put it to encourage her. Actually, if she does not cooperate, she will not be with child and her high favor will turn into crushing personal failure. Still, if she does cooperate, it is surely most unlikely after this announcement that she will give him any other name except the name of Jesus.] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High [though there is no guaranteeing what he will do, and I suppose he could veer way off course]. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end [at least that is the scenario we have every reason to expect, since God is incredibly resourceful at bringing these things about. Nor will you tax his resourcefulness too much, Mary, if you won't bear the child. Of course, if you refuse, we'll have to find someone else who will have some reason for going to Bethlehem for Jesus to be born, because that fits best with the prophecy of Micah. Alternatively, we could leave Bethlehem out of it and ...

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