Does Open Theism Lessen 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 What Is 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.

Certainly God’s controlling everything, even forordaining millions to spend eternity in Hell (as Calvinism teaches) would demonstrate that God is in control and thus is sovereign. But

How different, and how much more glorious, is the portrait of of a God who chooses to create a cosmos populated with free agents. Out of love, God empowers others to be personal beings. Out of love, he respects their God-given ability to make decisions even when doing so causes him pain. Out of his love for his whole creation, he wisely weaves their free decisions into his general providential plan. Finally, out of love he becomes one of them and dies for them that they might eternally share in his love. That is divine sovereignty! Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001, pages 149-50)

For full consideration of the sovereignty of God, see 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.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I arrived at open theistic views while considering the problem of evil sometime after the death of my first wife O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die? and God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom). Thus it was natural for me to react to Ware’s objection by thinking of it in connection with the problem of evil. 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. On the other hand, it seems to me that 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.

However I also read what others thought about Ware’s objection. I was especially impressed by Clark Pinnock’s response to it in his Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2001). After admitting the seriousness of Ware’s objection, Pinnock responds, “The open view does not lessen God’s glory if the gospel is true. Is it not to God’s glory that he wants a relationship with his creatures, a partnership in which he makes himself vulnerable and suffers for sinners? Is it not conventional theism that lessens God’s glory with its all-controlling and unconditioned deity?” To each of his questions, I emphatically replied, “Yes,” even before reading the rest of his eloquent response to Ware’s objection on pages 182-83 of Most Moved Mover.

Surely rather than lessening God’s sovereignty and His glory, as its opponents charge, open theism enhances them!


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