In my November 3 “Some Books on Open Theism” post I included comments on two books opposing open theism, Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory and John M. Frame’s No Other God. Since then I’ve used both books extensively in expanding on “An Introduction to Open Theism” and become more appreciative of the former of them. Here I’ll repeat what I said about them in that post and make further observations on them. I’ll also comment on a recent book opposing open theism, Harry James Fox’s CrossCurrents: Making Sense of the Christian Life.
God’s Lesser Glory
My Initial Comment
Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Crossway Books, 2000) passionately opposes open theism. It consists of an introduction, three main sections, and a conclusion. Part One, “What Does Open Theism Propose?”, summarizes the central elements of and support for open theism in two chapters, “The Perceived Inadequacy of the Classical Arminian View of God” and “The Perceived Benefits of Open Theism.” The author said that he sought fairness and accuracy in the description, and I think that he succeeded. Part Two, “What’s Wrong with Open Theism’s View of God?”, critiques the biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments supporting open theism in three chapters, “Assessing Open Theism’s Denial of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge,” “Scriptural Affirmation of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge,” and “The God Who Risks and the Assault on God’s Wisdom.” Although I was impressed by the Biblical evidence given by the author for exhaustive divine foreknowledge in the middle of the three chapters, I found his explanations of open theism’s straightforward reading of divine growth-in-knowledge and of divine repentance texts unnatural and thought that his discussion of the open theism view that the future is open and risk-filled misrepresented that view. Part Three, “What Difference Does It Make in Daily Life” focuses on three main areas of practical application of open theism to the Christian life in three chapters, “Harm to the Christian’s Life of Prayer,” “Weakening of Our Confidence in God’s Guidance,” and “Despair amid Suffering and Pain.” The whole section was disappointing to me because it seemed to be basically name-calling.
Although I still think that Ware’s “explanations of open theism’s straightforward reading of divine growth-in-knowledge and of divine repentance texts [are] unnatural” and that his “discussion of the open theism view that the future is open and risk-filled misrepresent[s] that view,” I now have similar opinions of some open theistic explanations of the Biblical texts suggesting exhaustive divine foreknowledge and of their consideration of the classical view that the future is settled and thus unchangeable. I still think that open theism agrees with the Biblical evidence better than either Calvinism or Arminianism do, but I now realize that all views are faced with texts that are hard to explain from that viewpoint. Thus I now have more respect for Ware’s efforts in Part Two of God’s Lesser Glory to counter open theism’s view of God than I expressed above.
No Other God
My Initial Comment
John M. Frame’s No Other God (P&R Publishing Company, 2001) also opposes open theism. It contains 14 chapters, the titles of which indicate their content: What Is Open Theism?, Where Does Open Theism Come From?, How Do Open Theists Read the Bible?, Is Love God’s Most Important Attribute?, Is God’s Will the Ultimate Explanation of Everything?, How Do Open Theists Reply?, Is God’s Will Irresistible?, Do We Have Genuine Freedom?, Is God In Time?, Does God Change?, Does God Suffer?, Does God Know Everything in Advance?, Is Open Theism Consistent with Other Biblical Doctrines?, and Conclusion. In its preface, the author says, “I have tried to be fair in my interpretation of their [open theists’] writings, to avoid caricature, to give credit where credit is due, and to acknowledge weaknesses where they exist in the traditional position.” I think that on the whole he succeeded. Thus I found No Other God more credible than God’s Lesser Glory and was enlightened by it about both open theism and traditional theism. My main criticisms of it are that the author often draws unwarranted general conclusions from specific instances and attributes to open theism the personal views of individual open theists and that “Is Open Theism Consistent with Other Biblical Doctrines?” is too speculative and thus unfair to open theism. Despite its having those flaws, I think that any reader interested in knowing more about open theism would benefit from reading No Other God.
I no longer think that Frame succeeded in achieving what he professes in the preface of No Other God to be trying to do. Instead I now think that the whole book, not just “Is Open Theism Consistent with Other Doctrines?”, is unfair to open theism and to writers on its behalf. Thus I no longer recommend No Other God over God’s Lesser Glory as a guide for learning about and evaluating open theism. However I still appreciate the insights that both books have given me about classical and open theism and would recommend either of them to open theists wanting to test their open theistic views.
CrossCurrents: Making Sense of the Christian Life
Harry James Fox’s CrossCurrents: Making Sense of the Christian Life (Foxware Publishing LLC, 2013) is a new book that opposes open theism. It contains 10 chapters. Each of Chapters 1-4 identifies a current issue by considering a book that helped bring the issue to the attention of the Christian community; the books considered are Harold S. Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Francis A. Shaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? and The Great Evangelical Disaster, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and Rob Bell’s Love Wins. The titles of Chapters 5-6 describe their topics well, “A Great Gulf: Calvinism vs Arminianism” and “What Is Time and Why Does It Matter?”. Chapters 7-8 attack open theism. Chapters 9-10 describe Molinism and promote the author’s variation on it, which he calls The Chosen Contingency Model (CCM). Here I’ll devote a paragraph to each of Chapters 7-8 and Chapters 9-10 but in reverse order.
(Chapters 9-10) Molinism was proposed by Luis de Molina in his Concordia (1588-89) to try to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom. It claims that besides knowing what could and what will happen, God knows what would have happened if He had created any other world. Because this knowledge logically occurs between knowledge of what could happen (“natural knowledge”) and what will happen (“free knowledge”), Molina called it “middle knowledge.” According to it, God’s knowing how free agents would behave under all circumstances and being able to control some aspects of the circumstances enables Him to guide free agents to do what He wants them to do while letting them act freely. I view Molinism, and thus Fox’s CCM, as philosophical speculation, whereas I view open theism to be a reasonable way of reconciling what the Bible reveals about God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom.
(Chapters 7-8) Actually Fox begins his attack on open theism in Chapter 6, in which he argues that God’s being eternal means that He is timeless–seeing past, present, and future simultaneously–rather than that He is everlasting as open theists hold. In my February 23 post, “From Everlasting to Everlasting, Thou Art God,” I explain why I believe that God’s being eternal means that He is everlasting rather than that He is timeless. In Chapters 7-8, Fox attempts to identify open theism with process theology, a philosophical theory (like Molinism) that views God and the world as being interdependent and thus God as being limited in power by the world. In actuality, open theism has even more respect for the power of God than traditional theism, visualizing God’s being able to allow freedom to His creation while remaining in full control of it. Moreover, discussions in Facebook’s Open View Theists group suggest that open theists in general consider professed open theists who seem sympathetic to process theology to not be true open theists. Other than attempting to identify open theism with process theology, Fox basically follows the lead of God’s Lesser Glory and No Other God in arguing against open theism. Since I’ve already considered those books, I won’t comment here on Fox’s other charges against open theism.
In my next post I’ll consider what the first two chapters of the book of Job reveal about the problem of evil.