God – Personal or The Ultimate Stick in the Mud?

09 Aug



I am doing a group study on the topic of Open Theism. The group I am in has agreed to read three books (1 pro-Open Theism and 2 pro-Classical Theism): Greg Boyd’s “God of the Possible”, John Frame’s “No Other God”, and Norman Geisler’s “Creating God in the Image of Man?”. While it is difficult for me not to go into detail of all the arguments among the three that I have found convincing or failing, I will resist the temptation. I just want to focus on one from Geisler’s book. Dr. Geisler founds his book on “Aquinian” reasoning (he takes the first 25% of his book to argue for his position in this manner). He uses the philosophical works of Thomas Aquinas to “prove” that God must have certain attributes if He is in fact really God. (This seems odd to me for one who should be letting the God of Scripture be defined by the Scripture He inspired.)

In illustrating how an immutable God can have a genuine relationship with humanity he employs the analogy of a pillar and a man. Dr. Geisler states,

“Thus, when there is a change in the creature there is no change in God. Just as when the man changes his position from one side of the pillar to the other, the pillar does not change; only the man changes in relation to the pillar.” (“Creating God in the Image of Man?” – pg 33)

The pillar is such because it is stationary (representing immutability). This pillar stands there, like a stick in the mud. And this “stick-in-the-mud” pillar is analogous (in Geisler’s mind) to God.

stickinthemudTo Dr. Geisler, this constitutes a genuine relationship between persons. The human relates to the stick, and we describe this relation through prepositions: above, beside, behind, beneath, beyond, around, etc. Geisler argues that when Scripture says God changes, it is not God that actually changes but man’s position to God that has changed. From man’s perspective the stick has changed, but the stick has always been the way it is, it is just the man seeing the stick differently or relating to the stick differently; but the stick has not changed. Aside from the problem that Geisler dismisses these passages as anthropomorphic with the ease of a Jedi mind trick; it affirms that there is no real, personal relationship with God. God does not feel, does not change according to the actions of the beings around Him. If God appears to be angry, it is just because we are on the angry side of God. We need to reposition ourselves to God. The analogy goes like this: If we would relocate ourselves away from the ugly side of the stick over to the bloomingly beautiful side, then to us it would appear the stick has changed. But it hasn’t, for it cannot change, because if the stick were to change then the stick would not be the ultimate stick as it would be somehow affected by man and thus relationally dependent on man. Geisler even states, which is the common view of classical theism, that prayer doesn’t even change God.  He states,

“It is utterly presumptuous for mortal man to believe that their prayer actually changes God. Instead prayer is a means by which God changes us and others.” (“Creating God in the Image of Man?” – pg.87)

The stick must not be affected by anything around it. It is just there, in the mud, unemotional, unmovable. The epitome of a loving relationship, right?

This Harvy Dent view of God is the price one pays to maintain the “classical” view of God. There is no real relationship. There is HarvyDentmerely the immovable, unaffected God that we must play ring-around-the-rosie with in order to stay on His “good side”. An unmoveable deity that speaks to us as if, and acts as if, He changes and is affected by our actions and prayers, but Who is really quite the opposite. A god who is a misleading, immovable, stick in the mud.

That is not the God revealed in Scripture.

That is not the God revealed in Jesus.



Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Apologetics, God, Jesus Christ


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6 responses to “God – Personal or The Ultimate Stick in the Mud?

  1. susanne430

    August 9, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Really interesting post. I am not familiar with these terms (open and classical theism) so I enjoyed learning about what you are reading these days. I’ve also heard it stated that prayer changes us – makes us come more in alignment with God’s will. Is this the same as what Dr. G believes?

    • danielpulliam

      August 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      Yes. Geisler would argue that prayer changes us, not God as God cannot be changed.

  2. Anthony Baker

    August 24, 2014 at 7:56 am

    OK, so I am trying to understand. Are you writing these posts as a defense of open theism, an objective look at open theism, or a critic of open theism? Are you just discussing it, or are you presenting an apology for it? Maybe I’m just ADD and read too fast this and the later post, but it seems to me that you are presenting a pro-open theism argument. Do I understand correctly, or am I wrong?

    • danielpulliam

      August 24, 2014 at 8:09 am

      While you may be ADD, You’re not wrong. 🙂 It is pro-open theism.

      • Anthony Baker

        August 24, 2014 at 8:35 am

        I’m glad I understand. At least I now have a point of reference for any future discussion. Having done a little study on the subject of open theism in seminary, I do not consider myself an expert, but am aware of that doctrine. As I understand, the real issue boils down to how one defines change in relation to God and in the context of either His character or how we understand Him in His relation to finite man.

      • danielpulliam

        August 24, 2014 at 8:42 am

        The context of relationship. His character is constant, which I believe necessitates change in His actions due to His relationship to humanity. I’ve read Geisler’s book against it, and am working through John Frame’s right now.


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