Open Theism Has Theological Advantages over Other Views

This is the third in a series of posts on the advantages claimed for open theism that I identified in the first post at Open Theism, “An Introduction to Open Theism.” It expands on this statement in that post:

Proponents of open theism also claim…that it has significant theological…advantages over alternative views. Examples…are: it frees God from appearing responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust and for the creation of damned individuals.

It frees God from appearing responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust.

In “O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die?” I described my personal search for a solution to what is known as the problem of evil. I concluded that the best solution was the free will defence, about which I said:

“The free will defence is rooted in the Genesis account of the creation and fall of man. According to that account, God made the first man and the first woman ‘in his own image’ (1:27). However, unlike Him, they did not ‘know good and evil’ (3:6,22). God provided them opportunity for such by commanding them not to eat of ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ at the same time warning them that they would ‘surely die’ if they did eat of it (2:17). Tempted by the serpent (Satan, according to Revelation 20:2), Adam and Eve disobeyed, bringing moral and physical evil into man’s world (chapter 3). Thus, evil exists in the world, according to the Genesis account of the creation and fall of man, because God gave man a choice between obeying or disobeying Him and man chose to disobey Him.

“Why would God give man a such a choice, knowing that man could choose to disobey Him, thus bringing evil into the perfect world that He had created? Certainly, being all-powerful, He not only could have prevented introduction of evil into the human world but also could banish it from our world or at least make a new home for us where it could not enter (Revelation 21-22). And, surely, being wholly good, He did not and does not want evil. The answer to this question, according to the proponents of the free will defence, is that God wanted to create the best possible world that He could and a world containing free, moral creatures is better, all else being equal, than a world not containing free moral creatures. Accordingly, God created a world in which there originally existed no evil and He created human beings capable of free moral choice.”

Subsequently I demonstrated in “God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom” that if human beings have the free will referred to in the free will defence at least part of the future is not determined as held by traditional theists but is open as held by open theists. Thus according to open theism atrocities like the Holocaust occur because God gave people free wills and sometimes they choose to perform such atrocities. In other words people, not God, are responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust. Surely this puts God in a better light that the view of traditional theism that God foreordained or at least foreknew but did nothing about such atrocities!

It frees God from appearing responsible for the creation of damned individuals.

According to traditional theism, God foreknew or even foreordained before He created Adam and Eve which of their descendants would be damned to eternal suffering in Hell. According to open theism, all people are born with the possibility of going to Heaven but some reject God’s offer of eternal life and end up in Hell. Surely having just the possibility of being damned to Hell is better than being certain of being damned to it!

For fuller explanations of each of the above advantages of open theism over other views, see “Evil” in John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (pages 251-268) and “Creating Damned Individuals” in Gregory A. Boyd’s God of the Possible (pages 100-101).

In my next post I’ll give the fourth (and last) in this series of posts on the advantages claimed for open theism.

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8 thoughts on “Open Theism Has Theological Advantages over Other Views

  1. listeningtohear

    Dear Bob, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Open Theism. I guess my views are more in line with those views than any other explanation as I definitely believe we all have free will. Thanks. Rose

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      Thanks, Rose, for continuing to visit Open Theism and for your encouraging comments. I read somewhere that most Christians, regardless of what they believe about God, are open theists in practice. The writer was a proponent of open theism and so undoubtedly was biased. However I think that he was probably right. Bob

      Reply
  2. Andulamb

    Bob, I’ve been enjoying your articles Open theism has always made the most sense to me. But reading about free will got me wondering about angels — specifically Satan. Lucifer rebelled against God. Doesn’t that mean angels have free will? And if God already had one group of companions possessing free will, what motivated Him to create another group? I guess another way of asking this is, what did God hope to get from humans that He did not get from angels?

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      “Bob, I’ve been enjoying your articles Open theism has always made the most sense to me.” Andy, thanks.
      “But reading about free will got me wondering about angels — specifically Satan.” I’ve been thinking about him too, even getting a pair of books by Gregory A. Boyd on God’s lengthy conflict with him (God at War) and his contribution to the problem of evil (Satan and the Problem of Evil).
      “Lucifer rebelled against God. Doesn’t that mean angels have free will?” I agree.
      “And if God already had one group of companions possessing free will, what motivated Him to create another group? I guess another way of asking this is, what did God hope to get from humans that He did not get from angels?” One suggestion is that God made us so that He could have a love relationship with us rather than just the lord-servant relationship He seems to have with angels.
      Another question that I’ve wondered about is why God provided a means of reconciliation with Him for us but apparently not for angels.

      Reply
      1. Bob Hunter Post author

        “Can angels repent?”

        Satan’s been cast into Hell to be tormented forever (Revelation 20:10) indicates that either He can’t repent or that God knows that he won’t repent. However I don’t know about the other angels.

  3. Allison

    I agree that evil is caused by man having free will and committing atrocities, but then there is the dilemma of God’s intervention. Why does God sometimes intervene to improve a situation, keep one safe, or heal one, but other times allow bad to happen? And how does one maintain a stable faith, when God could say yes but could as easily say no to request?

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      “Why does God sometimes intervene to improve a situation, keep one safe, or heal one, but other times allow bad to happen?”

      I don’t know.

      “And how does one maintain a stable faith, when God could say yes but could as easily say no to requests?”

      Here is how I answered the question in “O God, Why Did You Let Esther Dies?”:

      “Knowing that mankind, rather than God, is responsible for humanity’s miserable condition, did not completely remove my complaint against God. As the Bible and history reveal, God has intervened and continues to intervene for His children in answer to their prayers to Him. Why didn’t He answer our prayers for Esther? I still can’t answer that question. However I no longer bewail Esther’s death or even seek a reason for God’s allowing it.

      “Why not? Because meditation upon the Son of God’s voluntarily laying aside His divine life in Heaven to enter our world as a human and to suffer the most agonizing of deaths on the cross of Calvary–so that mankind might be reconciled with His Father and have an inner peace now and a place in Heaven in the future–has impressed upon me how much God cares about us. Moreover, God gave my daughter and I a good life together and when it was time for her to leave home gave me a new wife and blessed her and me with two children. Surely if He would do all this for me, I should be willing to accept Esther’s death as part of her and my life in this world and to trust Him “that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).”

      Reply

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