Synthesising Scripture: Defending the Traditional View of God


Puritan Board Freshman
In the thread “Priority of Theology Proper over Soteriology”, while addressing the need to focus on Scripture first and primarily before dealing with the classical view of God, the following comment was made:
But which Scriptural statements about God? The ones where he acts like he doesn't know things? The ones where he changes? The one where he gets David to sin? Of course, we also know Scripture verses that say the contrary, but why prioritize those over the ones I just mentioned? I can answer that question because I hold to the traditional view of God. God is pure act. Therefore, those passages aren't meant to be taken in a wooden fashion.

I’d like to further understand the reasoning behind the traditional approach to synthesising Scripture compared to aberrant approaches. For instance, in past conversations with an open theist, our differences on synthesising Scripture emerged. I’d assert God is eternal; they'd claim the description is metaphorical. They'd assert His ignorant of the future; I'd claim He is accommodating Himself to the creature. Defending the traditional interpretation was challenging without deeper understanding of the rationale for our syntheses.

What is the rationale behind the traditional approach to synthesising Scripture? How does it differ from aberrant attempts, such as open theism?
It's not so much a matter of different approaches to Scripture as it is fully taking every biblical statement by or about God fully into account. A framework like open theism is just incompatible with numerous statements about God. It has no way of explaining, for example, how God can precisely predict future events that depend on human action. That's not something that can be explained away as metaphor. Plus, the interpretation of any given biblical statement about God as metaphorical needs to be defended, not just asserted.
It's often obvious which statements are metaphorical and which are not, but in liminal cases you can use two tests.

1. Does taking the statement metaphorically render it devoid of content? Negative statements are one big area where this would be true. Turning "God is not a man" or "God does not change" or something like that into a metaphor leaves it without meaning (neither does "eternal" function well as a metaphor). Whereas the "arm," "breath," "sorrow" of something similar of the Lord can meaningfully be used as a metaphor.

2. Is the meaning appropriate to God? This is a coherence test. Based on the rest of what Scripture teaches about God, do we get a harmonious meaning by understanding this expression literally or figuratively? If the literal meaning pushes you into a contradiction with the rest of what the Bible says about God, it's time to look for a meaningful metaphor.