God’s Give-and-Take Relationship with Us

In this post I’ll consider the second point in John Sanders’ summary of openness theology at Open Theism Information Site:

Second, God has, in sovereign freedom, decided to make some of his actions contingent upon our requests and actions. God elicits our free collaboration in his plans. Hence, God can be influenced by what we do and God truly responds to what we do. God genuinely interacts and enters into dynamic give-and-take relationships with us. That God changes in some respects implies that God is temporal, working with us in time. God, at least since creation, experiences duration. God is everlasting through time rather than timelessly eternal.

book 2In preparation for commenting on the above, I reread several times chapters 3 and 4 of Sanders’ The God Who Risks, which examine the Old and New Testament material supporting the “risk” view of providence (God’s care). From each chapter I’ve selected an event considered by Sanders that illustrates the above point, from chapter 3 the establishment, breaking, and renewal of the Covenant (pages 61-66) and from chapter 4 the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church (pages 117-124). Although I won’t consider in this post whether God’s being eternal means that He is everlasting or timeless, after I finish examining the five points in the summary of openness theology at Open Theism Information Site I’ll share three papers that I wrote in 1984 on freewill theism (another name for open theism), one of which concerns the nature of God’s eternity.

The Establishment, Breaking, and Renewal of the Covenant

While the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai, God established a covenant or agreement with them. “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all people, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:4-6, ESV) God freely established the covenant, but it involved obligations for both the Israelites and Him–they were to obey His word and He would bless them. Thus although the establishment of the covenant was unconditional, its continuance was contingent upon the Israelites’ obeying God’s word.

The breaking and renewal of the Covenant in Exodus 32-34 illustrates this. When God informed Moses of the Israelites’ worshipping the golden calf, He told him that He was going to destroy them and start over again with him. However as a result of Moses’ intercession for the Israelites, God changed His mind and didn’t do what He had said that He would do. After Moses visited the idolatrous scene, he returned to God and asked Him to forgive the Israelites. This time God refused his request and said that an angel, rather than God, would accompany the Israelites. However as a result of the Israelites’ taking off their ornaments as God instructed them to and of Moses’ continued intercession for them, God again changed His mind and said that His “presence” would go with them. He then renewed His covenant with the Israelites.

The Inclusion of the Gentiles in the Church

Sanders comments on what Acts 10-15 and Romans 9-11 show about God’s attempt to include the Gentiles within the Church without first having to convert to Judaism. I’ll limit my consideration to Acts 10-15.

In Acts 10 God showed Peter that Gentiles should be included in the Church as Gentiles by having an angel tell Cornelius, a Roman centurion, to send for Peter; by granting Peter a vision of ceremonially unclean food and commanding him three times to eat it; and by giving the gift of the Holy Spirit to those listening to Peter’s message about Jesus in the house of Cornelius. In Acts 11 Peter explained the situation to Jewish Christians who took issue with him and they concluded that God had accepted the Gentiles into the Church.

Acts 13-14 describes Paul’s first missionary journey, in which some Jews and many Gentiles came to faith in Christ. Acts 15 narrates how certain Jewish Christians told the Gentile Christians that they couldn’t be genuine Christians unless they practiced the law of Moses and how Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them and it was decided to take the matter to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. It also describes that meeting, in which Peter recounted what had happened in the house of Cornelius, Paul and Barnabas told of signs and wonders among the Gentiles, James suggested certain minimum requirements that Gentiles should observe, and those in the meeting agreed to his suggestion.

Sanders observes that to accomplish His plan to develop both Jews and Gentiles into a body having faith in Jesus God was dependent on the people involved, especially Peter and Paul, to correctly interpret His actions in the events described in Acts 10-15; that although His plan met initial success, God did experience some setbacks, such as the incident at Antioch described in Galatians 2:11-21; and that despite His resourcefulness, God did not achieve everything that He wanted to accomplish regarding the Jews, most of them rejecting Jesus as their Messiah.

Conclusion

The two events considered above illustrate that, as Sanders puts it in the second point of his summary of openness theology at Open Theism Information Site: “God has, in sovereign freedom, decided to make some of his actions contingent upon our requests and actions. God elicits our free collaboration in his plans. Hence, God can be influenced by what we do and God truly responds to what we do. God genuinely interacts and enters into dynamic give-and-take relationships with us.”

In my next post I’ll consider the third point in John Sanders’ summary of openness theology at Open Theism Information Site.

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4 thoughts on “God’s Give-and-Take Relationship with Us

  1. http://bing.com

    “Gods Give-and-Take Relationship with Us
    | Open Theism” ended up being definitely engaging and beneficial!
    Within the present day society that is difficult to carry out.
    Many thanks, Julio

    Reply
  2. Allison

    To me, the Old Testament is full of examples of God’s give-and-take relationship. That’s a beauty of the Old Testament. One can’t read it without realizing how much God goes out of his way to love Israel, repeatedly.

    Reply

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