In my original “Some Books on Open Theism” article, I included the following paragraph:
A briefer and easier primer to open theism than The Openness of God and The God Who Risks is Gregory A. Boyd’s God of the Possible (Baker Books, 2000). It consists of four short chapters. “The Classical View of Divine Foreknowledge” presents examples of God predicting future events in the Bible and then explains the passages from the open perspective to show they do not teach that the future is exhaustively settled. “The God Who Faces a Partially Open Future” examines the Scriptural evidence for divine openness and concludes that the future is partly open and partly settled. “What Practical Difference Does the Open View Make?” shows that the belief that the future is partly open and that God knows it as such has important, beneficial, and practical implications for our lives. “Questions and Answers” considers the commonest questions asked about and objections raised against the open view. (Personally I disagree with Boyd’s assertion in “Questions and Answers” that possibilities and probabilities, unlike actualities, are eternally in God’s mind.)
Here I’m going to describe three other books that my family has in which Boyd promotes open theism. Each of my children has a copy of Letters from a Skeptic (SP Publications, 1994; Cook Communications, 2003), and I have copies of God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press, 1997) and Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (InterVarsity Press, 2001), both Christmas gifts to me from my wife. Letters from a Skeptic is aimed at the general reader. So is most of the text of God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil, but each of them contains extensive endnotes intended for specialists.
Letters from a Skeptic
Letters from a Skeptic contains letters that Boyd and his agnostic father exchanged about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and Christian life and doctrine in 1989-91 that led to the father’s accepting Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. The first of the book’s four parts, “Questions about God,” focuses on the problem of evil and provides as good an introduction to open theism as I’ve seen anywhere.
God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict
God at War demonstrates that that a central concern of the Bible is what Boyd terms a “warfare worldview,” the view that the world is populated by spiritual beings at war with each other. The book is divided into two parts, each with five chapters. The first part consists of an introductory chapter relating the warfare worldview to the problem of evil and four chapters considering the warfare worldview of the Old Testament, and the second part considers the warfare worldview of the New Testament.
Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy
Satan and the Problem of Evil attempts “to render philosophically coherent the warfare worldview of Scripture as well as the war-torn appearance of our world” (p. 16). The book is divided into two parts, each with six chapters. The first part has an introductory chapter presenting the warfare worldview of the Bible (for those who haven’t read God at War) and showing that it was embraced by the early church and five chapters that develop these six theses: (1) love must be freely chosen; (2) love entails risk; (3) love, and thus freedom, entail that we are to some extent morally responsible for one another; (4) the power to influence for the worse must be roughly proportionate to our power to influence for the better; (5) not only does love entail freedom, but this freedom must be, within limits, irrevocable; and (6) this limitation is not infinite, for our capacity to freely choose love is not endless. The second part works through the implications of this theodicy in relationship to prayer, natural evil, and the doctrine of eternal punishment.
When I studied the free-will defence to the problem of evil in the mid 1980’s, I rejected the suggestion that Satan was responsible for natural evil. One reason was that I felt that the Bible pictured Satan’s as being able to inflict pain and suffering upon humans (or at least the righteous) only with God’s permission and I questioned a God of love’s allowing Satan to do such. However after reading God at War and Satan and the Problem of Evil, I’m more sympathetic to the idea.
In my next post I’ll give an updated version of my November 10 post on “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism.”