Part 1:Introduction | John Sanders 1 | Chris Hall 1 | Sanders 2 | Hall 2

Part 2:John Sanders 3 | Chris Hall 3 | Sanders 4 | Hall 4 | Sanders 5 | Postscript

Dear Chris,

Regarding my interpretation of Judas's sin and Peter's denial, please realize that not all proponents of openness agree with my particular understanding. Not all Calvinists agree on how to interpret each passage either. In my book, I do say that it is not necessary to agree with Klassen's interpretation, so I go on to give other possible readings compatible with openness. L. D. McCabe, a 19th-century Methodist openness proponent, believes God removed the free will of Judas and Peter in these particular circumstances in order to accomplish his purposes. Thus, they were not morally responsible for their actions. But then you ask, if Peter is not morally responsible, then why does Christ rebuke him for his actions in John 21? McCabe's answer, in my opinion, needs some modification.

If I were to go in this direction, I would highlight Jesus' statement in Luke 22:31 that Satan is after Peter, which is why Jesus tries three times to get the disciples to pray with and for him in Gethsemane. They needed to be spiritually prepared for the events ahead. They let him down and were not properly prepared. Peter was to have a special role in God's forthcoming work, so God works especially with him. At this point, I would modify McCabe and say that Peter was free to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus, but he was spiritually unprepared to do so. Jesus knew this well and made the prediction. All that need be determined by God in this case would be to have someone question Peter three times and a rooster crow.

As for Judas, all three synoptic Gospels say that Judas made his agreement with the authorities before Jesus announced that one of the disciples will hand him over. Jesus' statement is not "out of the blue." It is likely that Jesus and Judas have been discussing the issue. You cite Matthew 27:9 to claim that this happened to "fulfill" prophecy, arguing that it was part of God's foreordained plan. However, if you examine the texts Matthew cites (Zech. 11:12; Jer. 32:6-9), you will discover that these are not predictions about future events at all! Matthew does the same thing in 2:15 when he claims that Hosea 11:1 has been "fulfilled." However, Hosea 11:1 is not a prediction but a statement of historical fact. Does Matthew not know how to read Scripture?

The problem is not with Matthew but with us, since we are the ones who see the word fulfilled and jump to the conclusion that these Old Testament texts must have been predictions of future events. Not at all. Rather, Matthew is using the word fulfilled here to say that what happened in the past is happening again. He is appropriating these Old Testament texts for events in the life of Jesus. To borrow an idea from one of the early Fathers, we could say that these Old Testament passages are "recapitulated" in the life of Jesus and so are "fulfilled." We really do need to grasp how Matthew used the term. Again, I do not believe these are the only possible interpretations available to openness. We shall have to see if others arise.

By the way, though you address Genesis 22:12, you have not answered how you interpret the wide array of biblical texts that, in my view, teach that God grieves, responds to us, and changes his mind. You have not given me one biblical reason why I should believe God is not affected by us.

Looking forward to your next letter,

Chris Hall replies, next page.

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