Open Theism Lessens God’s Sovereignty and Glory

This is the third in a series of four posts on the objections made to open theism that I identified in the first post at Open Theism, “An Introduction to Open Theism.” It expands on “demeaning His sovereignty and diminishing His glory” in this passage in the post:

Opponents of open theism also charge that it undermines God’s omnipotence and omniscience, thus demeaning His sovereignty and diminishing His glory.

God’s Sovereignty

Opponents of open theism charge that it demeans God’s sovereignty because according to it much that happens is the result of decisions made by created beings, humans and fallen angels, rather than what God wants.

However God’s giving us (and angels) free will so that we could resist His will if we chose to doesn’t mean that He put himself at our mercy, as opponents of open theism claim. He retained the right and power to intervene when and how He wished so that He could make things ultimately work out according to His will. He demonstrated this when, as pictured in Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus Christ became one of us, was crucified, and rose from the grave so that we could be reconciled with God.

For fuller responses to the charge, see Gregory A. Boyd’s answer to it on pages 147-150 of his God of the Impossible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) and the chapter on God’s sovereignty in John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 208-236).

God’s Glory

From the beginning to the end of his God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000), Bruce A. Ware expresses his concern that open theism diminishes God’s glory. In its concluding chapter, “God’s Greater Glory and Our Everlasting Good,” he identifies three ways in which he thinks open theism diminishes God’s glory: God’s failure in the past to move the world forward in the way that He intended and His possible failure to do so in the future, our receiving credit for good produced by our free actions, and God’s lessened sovereignty (see above). For Ware’s explanations of the three ways, see pages 219-230 of God’s Lesser Glory.

Personally I would find it hard to view as glorious a God who foreordained (or who foresaw but couldn’t do anything about) all the evil and suffering in the world. To me, recognizing that evil is brought about created beings and that God will ultimately intervene to bring about His will enhances rather than diminishes God’s glory.

For an eloquent response to Ware’s concern, see pages 182-183 of Clark H. Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2001).

Postscript

My son-in-law made an excellent comment on “Open Theism Lessens God’s Sovereignty and Glory.” It contains both an analogy and a Biblical example that demonstrate how open theism enhances rather than lessens God’s sovereignty. To read it, either click Replies under the post’s heading or the following link:
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/open-theism-lessens-gods-sovereignty-and-glory/#comments

Next week I’ll give the last in this series of posts on objections made to open theism.

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5 thoughts on “Open Theism Lessens God’s Sovereignty and Glory

  1. Andulamb

    Concerning whether open theism diminishes God’s sovereignty by putting Him at the mercy of our decisions… I see His relationship to us as like that of a boy to an ant farm. To the ants, the boy is their god. He has as much control over their fate as he wishes. And while the ants have free will, their choices have no impact on the boy’s long term plans.

    Now, as is the case with any analogy, this one is not perfect. Realistically, could the ants’ choices and the boy’s limited knowledge and skill lead to the destruction of the colony and thereby ruin the boy’s plans to set his pets free in the summer? Of course. But let’s imagine a more truly god-like boy who watches over his ants continually and can step in when necessary. He can choose when to add food and water. He can put the farm in the sun or in the shade. He can protect the queen if she is in danger. He can even add new ants and remove troublemakers. If the boy has the ability to maintain a thriving ant farm, the day-to-day goings-on within it are not an issue.

    In terms of God’s relationship with mankind, consider those times when mankind made choices of extreme magnitude: for example, when people had almost completely turned to evil in Genesis 6. Humans used their free will to make a mess of things. What happened? Did God have to change His plans? No. He sent a flood to wipe the slate clean, and His long term plans were unaffected. He didn’t have to know ahead of time that the flood would be necessary, nor did He have to foreordain it. The flood was irrelevant.

    God’s power is not diminished by mankind’s free will. Rather, mankind’s free will demonstrates the greatness of God’s power; it is because God’s power is so great that He can allow us to have free will, as our actions can have no impact on His long term plans.

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      William Lance Huget, the moderator of Facebook’s Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group, posted this response to a message that I posted in the group giving a link to your comment here:

      Analogies are imperfect. It is an apt analogy in many ways. It does take greater ability to govern a race of free moral agents/contingencies than to deterministically, meticulously control everything. Despite the risk, free will is necessary for reciprocal love relationships, responsibility, etc. The man/ant analogy also works for the incarnation with God becoming like an ant to live among them so they can understand Him and His ways (transcendent/immanent).

      Reply

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