Category Archives: Original Series

Open Theism on the Internet

I created this blog, Open Theism, in the fall of 2012 to explain open theism to my family and friends. Open theism holds that in giving us free will God limited His control over and knowledge of the future and thus the future is partly open. I wrote weekly posts about it here from October 27, 2012, to April 27, 2013, by sharing and expanding on an article that I’d written on open theism for Suite101.com in 2005.

After completing that project I began reporting on the weekly meetings of the Life group which my wife and I attended, and I continued doing so until the group disbanded about a year later, my reports running from May 3, 2013, to May 17, 2014. Also on August 24, 2013, I began a series of posts based on my family’s daily reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and plan to continue to do so until we finish reading that book later this year. After that I’ll be devoting Open Theism to occasional posts on open theism and on holidays.

One of my first posts on open theism, posted on November 10, 2012, was called “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism. I posted a revised version of it under the same title on June 14, 1013. This is another revised version of it.

Three Reference Websites with “Open Theism” Entries

Many descriptions of open theism occur on the Internet. These three are at standard reference websites:
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Open Theism
Theopedia – Open Theism
Wikipedia – Open Theism

Some Websites and Blogs about Open Theism

In my first post, “An Introduction to Open Theism,” I recommended these websites on open theism, the first two supporting and the third opposing open theism:
Open Theism Information Site
ReKnew – Open Theism
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – Open Theism

As its name indicates, Open Theism Information Site contains information about open theism. Currently being rebuilt after having being off the Internet for a while, it has these sections: Home, What Is Open Theism?, Information, Publications, Contact Us. What Is Open Theism? features a definition and summary of open theism by John Sanders, author of The God Who Risks and overseer of the site. Information will contain several sections, the most noteworthy so far being Articles, which contains academic articles on open theism by John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, and several other scholars. Publications describes several books on open theism and related topics by various authors.

ReKnew is the website of Greg Boyd, the author of God of the Possible. Its Resources / Essays / Open Theism section contains several items, one of which I especially recommend to anyone wanting to know what open theism is, “A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View.” The other items are more advanced.

Open Theism at Matt Slick’s Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) contains material opposing open theism. It has four sections: Introduction, describing open theism; Issues and Answers, criticising open theism; Scriptures Examined, explaining Bible passages cited by open theists as evidence that God learns; and “A Dialogue with an Open Theist.”

Since I posted “An Introduction to Open Theism,” many other websites and logs about or containing significant material about open theism have appeared or at least become known to me. I’ll note only a few here:
God Is Open
The Open View
Library of Theology – Open Theism
Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness
Jess in Process

God Is Open and The Open View are similar to but not as developed as Open Theism Information Site. They are the creations of Christopher Fisher and Kirk Johnson, respectively.

Library of Theology – Open Theism and Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness provide numerous articles and longer works on open theism by various writers of the past and the present. Their content is similar, but each contains some items not on the other. In particular, Library of Theology – Open Theism includes several articles by Jesse Morrell of Open Air Outreach.

Jess in Process focuses on Jessica Kelley’s discovery of open theism while dealing with the sickness and death of her son, Henry, to brain cancer. I especially recommend the video “Triumph by Testimony” provided on its Home page.

Websites for Discussing Open Theism

I’m a member of two Facebook groups that host discussions of open theism:
Facebook – Open View Theists
Facebook – Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal

I joined Facebook so that I could participate in its Open View Theists group and I do so regularly. After joining Facebook, I found that it hosts some other open theist groups. So far I’ve joined just one of them, the Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group. The two groups are administered by Michael Faber and William Lance Huget, respectively. I recommend both to anyone who wishes to learn more about and/or discuss open theism.

I’d appreciate your telling me in a comment on this post of other websites or blogs about or with significant material on open theism.

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Some Books Opposing Open Theism

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

book 4Bruce 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.

Further Observations

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

book 5John 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.

Further Observations

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

book 6Harry 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.

Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism

This is a revised version of my November 10, 2012, “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism” post.

In my first post, “An Introduction to Open Theism,” I recommended these websites on open theism, the first two supporting and the third opposing open theism:
Open View Information Site
ReKnew – Open Theism
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – Open Theism
In this post I’ll describe them, give links to other websites and blogs about or with significant material on open theism, and give links to websites for discussing open theism.

Open Theism Information Site

As its name indicates, Open Theism Information Site contains information about open theism. It has these sections: Home, Information, Publications, Questions, Opposition, and Contact. Home features a definition and summary of open theism by John Sanders, author of The God Who Risks. Information explores various sources of information about open theism; its Articles subsection provides articles on open theism by John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, and other scholars and an enlightening debate about open theism between John Sanders and Christopher A. Hall, “Does God know Your Next Move?” Publications lists several books on open theism and related topics by various authors. Questions contains answers to various questions submitted by visitors to the site. Opposition contains a few items opposing open theism.

ReKnew – Open Theism

ReKnew is the website of Gregory Boyd, the author of God of the Possible. Its Resources / Essays / Open Theism section contains several items, one of which I especially recommend to anyone wanting to know what open theism is, “A Brief Outline and Defense of the Open View.” The other items are more advanced.

CARM – Open Theism

Open Theism at Matt Slick’s The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) contains material opposing open theism. It has four sections: Introduction, describing open theism; Issues and Answers, criticising open theism; Scriptures Examined, explaining Bible passages cited by open theists as evidence that God learns; and “A Dialogue with an Open Theist.”

Other Websites and Blogs about or with Significant Material on Open Theism

Library of Theology – Open Theism and Revival Theology Resources – Omniscience and Openness provide numerous articles and longer works on open theism by various writers of the past and the present. Their content is similar, but each contains some items not on the other. In particular, Library of Theology – Open Theism includes several articles by Jesse Morrell of Open Air Outreach.

The orthodox Open Theist is the personal blog of the administrator of Facebook’s Open View Theists group, Michael Faber.

All Things Rabyd – Open Theism contains some articles by Edward W. Raby about or referring to open theism.

The two blogs that I recommended in my original “Some Websites and Blogs on Open Theism” post aren’t active at this time.

Websites for Discussing Open Theism

I’m registered at these websites that host discussions of open theism:
Facebook – Open View Theists
Facebook – Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal
Open Theism Discussion Board

I joined Facebook so that I could participate in its Open View Theists group and I do so regularly. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to learn more about and/or to discuss open theism. Some of its members clash with each other over differences of opinion but so far they’ve been quite kind in their interactions with me.

After joining Facebook and the Open View Theists group, I found that Facebook hosts some other open theist groups. So far I’ve joined just one of them, the Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group.

Before joining Facebook I used to occasionally visit and contribute to discussions at Open Theism Discussion Board, but I no longer do so.

I’d appreciate your telling me, either in a comment on this post or by e-mail, of other websites or blogs about or with significant material on open theism.

Next week I’ll post an update of the comments that I made on books opposing open theism in my initial “Some Books on Open Theism” post.

Some Books Promoting Open Theism by Gregory A. Boyd

In my original “Some Books on Open Theism” article, I included the following paragraph:

book 3A 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.”

Some Older Books Promoting Open Theism

This week I’m going to consider four books on open theism by writers of previous generations, two by L. D. McCabe and two by Gordon C. Olson.

L. D. McCabe

Lorenzo Dow McCabe (1812-1897), a professor of mathematics and of philosophy at Ohio Wesleyan University, wrote The Foreknowledge of God and Cognate Themes in Theology and Philosophy (Revival Theology Promotion, North St. Paul, MN, 1987; originally published by Cranston & Stowe, Cincinnati, 1887; copyright, 1878) and Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity (Revival Theology Promotion, North St. Paul, MN, 1988; originally published by Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1882; copyright, 1882). Although they, especially the former, deserve the accolades given to them by many contemporary open theists as seminal works in open theism, I don’t recommend them as a good place to start one’s exploration of open theism because of their length and of their numerous quotations from and references to the views of individuals unknown to today’s readers.

The Foreknowledge of God and Cognate Themes in Theology and Philosophy presents in 30 chapters McCabe’s position “that universal prescience is incompatible with human freedom; that there can be no tenable system of doctrine or of moral philosophy based upon that doctrine; but that the whole Christian system may be made consistent, defensible, and satisfactory by the denial of it; and that all the doctrines and prophecies of Scripture are plainly reconcilable with such denial” (p. 11). He opens by stating why he undertook the work (Chapter I). Then he explains how what we now call open theism works (Chapters II – IX), demonstrates that the traditional view of God’s absolute foreknowledge is inadequate (Chapters X – XVIII), and details some of its harmful effects on Christian doctrine and practice (Chapters XIX – XXVIII). He closes by reiterating that the denial of God’s absolute foreknowledge is tenable and explaining eloquently why he questions prescience and embraces its negative (Chapters XXIX- XXX).

In Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity, McCabe devotes a chapter to each of the following reasons for divine nescience or ignorance of future contingencies being a necessity: in the necessity of things, in the nature of things, in order to escape the dreaded system of necessity, to the divine perfections, to safeguard the wisdom and candor of the Holy Ghost, to escape the crushing system of pantheism, to give validity to our hopes and pains, to the impression that ought to be made on the mind of a probationer for eternity, to an interpretation of the holy Scriptures, to an explanation of the utility of prayers, to the construction of a satisfactory theodicy, to a universal atonement, for the logical and final settlement of the doctrine of endless punishment, to the harmonizing of the Calvinian and Arminian schools of theology, and because of the reality of time.

Gordon C. Olson

Gordon C. Olson (1907-1989), tractor design engineer and moral government teacher, wrote The Foreknowledge of God (The Bible Research Corporation, Arlington Heights, Illinois; copyright, 1941) and The Omniscience of the Godhead (The Bible Research Corporation, Arlington Heights, Illinois; copyright, 1972). Facebook contains a fan page for him started by Jesse Morrell of Open Air Outreach.

In the preface to The Foreknowledge of God Olson acknowledges his indebtedness to McCabe’s The Foreknowledge of God and Cognate Themes in Theology and Philosophy. The Foreknowledge of God contains five sections: Foreknowledge to the Calvinist, Foreknowledge to the Arminian, Is a Denial of Absolute Divine Foreknowledge Tenable?, Objections Commonly Raised to the Denial of Absolute Foreknowledge, and Concluding Remarks. In the third section Olson presents six reasons for denying divine foreknowledge of all future contingencies, and in the fourth section he responds to four objections to the denial of absolute divine foreknowledge. The Foreknowledge of God also contains lists and charts of Bible passages supporting and denying the foreknowledge of God. Although it predates the rise of contemporary open theism, I consider The Foreknowledge of God a good place to start one’s exploration of the view.

On the other hand, I consider The Omniscience of the Godhead to be a place to reinforce what one knows about open theism rather than to start one’s study of it. The bulk of it presents Scriptural evidence for the openness of God in four sections: that the Godhead lived in time and experienced its passage; that the Godhead experienced grief and disappointment because of man’s sin and persistent rebellion, suggesting the Godhead’s existence in time; that “repent” and its derivatives are used to describe the actions of God some 33 times in the Old Testament; and that other accounts of Divine actions and reactions indicate that future decisions of moral beings and the Godhead were not known beforehand. These sections are preceded by a section describing how speculative philosophy complicated the early church’s simple understanding of God’s existence and of man’s free will and are followed by six short sections, most just references to other writings by Olson.

In my next post I’ll consider some books promoting open theism by a leading contemporary open theist, Gregory A. Boyd.

Some Contemporary Books Promoting Open Theism

book 1The January 9, 1995, issue of Christianity Today> carried an article, “Has God Been Held Hostage by Philosophy?”, in which four scholars reacted to a recently published book, The Openness of God (InterVarsity Press, 1994), which proposed that God limited His control over the present and His knowledge of the future when He created beings with a free will. Since I’d reached the same conclusion when I was doing a study of the attributes of God with California State University Dominguez Hills in 1984, I purchased The Openness of God and some of the books that appeared in the next few years supporting or opposing the view set forth in it. Here I’ll summarize The Openness of God and a book on open theism by each of its five contributors.

The Openness of God

The Openness of God contains five chapters, each by a different author. In “Biblical Support for a New Perspective,” Richard Rice explores the Scriptural evidence for the openness of God and takes into account passages that seem to call it into question. In “Historical Considerations,” John Sanders argues that traditional theology interprets the Bible differently than The Openness of God does because of the influence of Greek philosophy on it. In “Systematic Theology,” Clark Pinnock portrays God as not only the creator of and ruler over the world but also as a loving parent who limits Himself to interact with us. In “A Philosophical Perspective,” William Hasker shows that the openness view is rationally superior to other ways of understanding God and His knowledge and action in the world. In “Practical Implications,” David Bassinger considers the practical implications of the openness of God on petitionary prayer, divine guidance, the problem of evil, social responsibility, and evangelistic responsibility.

Although the view had been expressed previously, The Openness of God was the first major attempt to bring it into the evangelical theological arena. It succeeded, being voted one of Christianity Today‘s 1995 Books of the Year and sparking widespread and vigorous discussion and over the next few years the production of several books supporting or opposing the view expressed in it. And, despite the overlapping of material that occurs in it because of its fivefold coverage of the view, I think that it’s still a good place to start one’s exploration of the view. Other good places to start are, arranged in order of publication, Gordon C. Olson’s The Foreknowledge of God to be summarized in my May 31 post, Richard Rice’s God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will summarized below, and Gregory A. Boyd’s God of the Possible to be summarized in my June 7 post.

Basinger – The Case for Freewill Theism

David Basinger’s The Case for Freewill Theism (Downers Grove, Ill., 1996) contains five chapters. “Basic Freewill Theism” distinguishes freewill theism (another name for open theism) from process theism and classical theism. The other four chapters consider the relationship between freewill theism and God’s knowledge, God’s goodness, evil, and petitionary prayer. As its subtitle A Philosophical Assessment indicates, The Case for Freewill Theism is philosophical. Thus I don’t think that it would be a good place to start one’s exploration of open theism. On a personal note, I disagree with Basinger’s conclusion in chapter 2 that freewill theists can affirm that God possesses foreknowledge (“knowledge of what will actually happen…including what humans will freely do”) or middle knowledge (knowledge of “what would happen in every possible situation, including what every possible free creature would do in every possible situation in which the creature could find itself”) as well as present knowledge (knowledge of “everything that is [or has been] actual and…what follows deterministically from it”). I think that they can only affirm that He has present knowledge and foreknowldge of what He has foreordained.

Hasker – God, Time, and Knowledge

Because I’m still working through William Hasker’s God, Time, and Knowledge (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), I won’t summarize and comment on it here other than to observe that its being a volume in an academic series (Cornell Studies on the Philosophy of Religion) make it an unsuitable place to start one’s exploration of open theism. If any reader would like a summary of it, let me know in a comment on this post or by e-mail and I’ll provide it here or in a response to the comment or e-mail.

Pinnock – Most Moved Mover

Clark H. Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2001) contains a lengthy introduction and four chapters. “Introduction” describes the open view of God, the sources of controversy over it, and the writer’s approach to theological method. “The Scriptural Foundation” argues that the open view of God is at least as Biblical as its competition. “Overcoming a Pagan Inheritance” demonstrates that the conventional doctrine of God has origins in Greek thought thought as well as in the Bible and suggests some modifications that are needed in it on the basis of the Biblical picture of God. “The Metaphysics of Love” appeals for theology to be not only Biblical but also in a form that will be intellectually compelling to the contemporary generation. “The Existential Fit” shows that “besides being Biblical and coherent, the open view of God is adequate for the demands of life and relevant to concrete situations.” Although I enjoyed and benefited from reading Most Moved Mover, I don’t recommend it a place to start one’s exploration of open theism because it seems to have been written more as an apology for open theism to its evangelical opponents than as a primer in open theism.

Rice – God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will

Richard Rice’s God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985; revised version of The Openness of God, 1980) contains nine chapters. “The Conventional View of God” and “The Open View of God” examine the conventional and open views of God. The other seven chapters consider the relationship between the openness of God and creation, evil, the future, providence, prophecy, predestination, and personal religion. The back cover of God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will observes: ‘With strong theological background and sound biblical scholarship, Dr. Rice presents his viewpoint in convincing and easily understood style.” I agree. On a personal note, I disagree with Rice’s identifying man’s being in the “image of God” with man’s having a “position of creative sovereignty over the world” in chapter 3. I understand it to refer to man’s personality.

Sanders – The God Who Risks

John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (InterVarsity Press, 1998) contains nine chapters. “Introduction” introduces the idea of God as a risk taker. “The Nature of the Task” considers methodological matters, in particular defending the author’s taking seriously the metaphorical language used in the Bible about God. (I’d suggest skipping the chapter in one’s first reading of the book.) “Old Testament Materials for a Relational View of Providence Involving Risk” and “New Testament Materials for a Relational View of Providence Involving Risk” discuss numerous texts to demonstrate that the risk model of providence enjoys Biblical support. “Divine Relationality in the Christian Tradition” argues that the model is consistent with the major themes of Western theology. “Risk and the Divine Character” explores philosophically certain attributes of God in relation to the idea of His being a risk taker. “The Nature of Divine Sovereignty” compares the two basic models of divine sovereignty, specific and general. “Applications to the Christian Life” explores the two models in light of various aspects of the Christian life—salvation and grace, evil, prayer, and divine guidance. “Conclusion” summarizes the book and the risk model of providence. Although my current favourite of the books that I have on open theism, I don’t recommend it as a place to start one’s exploration of open theism because of its length.

In my next post, I’m going to consider four books promoting open theism by writers of previous generations, L. D. McCabe and Roger C. Olson.

Open Theism Can’t Account for Biblical Prophecy and God’s Ability To Guide Us

This is the last 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 this passage in the post:

Further [opponents of open theism] charge that [open theism] cannot account for biblical prophecy and that it weakens our confidence in God’s ability to accomplish His purposes and to guide us.

Prophecy

Classical theists attribute prophecies–divinely inspired utterances or revelations–foretelling what is going to happen in the future to God’s foreseeing the future because He foreordains everything that happens (Calvinists) or because He sees past, present, and future as an eternal present (Arminians). However open theists claim that God can’t foresee the part of the future brought about by humans exercising their free will. Thus classical theists charge that open theists can’t account for Biblical prophecies involving humans. I considered a few Biblical predictive prophecies from the perspective of classical theists in my December 1 post, “Biblical Passages Containing Prophecies Later Fulfilled.”

However open theists argue that all Biblical predictive prophecies fit into one of these categories or into a combination of them:
– they may be of things that God intends to do in the future
– they may be of things that God, because of His exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present, knows will occur as a result of factors already present
– they may be of things that God intends to do if people act in a certain way

Prophecies of the third kind are called conditional prophecies. God describes their nature in Jeremiah 18:7-10: “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I intended to do to it” (ESV). A good example is found in Jonah 3.

For a fuller explanation of Biblical predictive prophecies from an open theistic perspective, see chapter 7, “Prophecy and the Openness of God,” of Richard Rice’s God’s Foreknowledge & God’s Free Will (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1985; pages 75-81). Criticism and defence of it also appear, respectively, in Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000; pages 130-138) and John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 129-137).

Guidance

Classical theists believe that God has a specific plan for everyone and, controlling (Calvinists) or knowing (Arminians) the future, can guide people to do what He has planned for them. However open theists claim that because of God’s giving humans free will He doesn’t control or know the future. Thus classical theists charge that open theists cannot be sure that God can accomplish His purposes or guide us to do what He wants for us.

However open theists argue that because God knows the past and the present exhaustively and is eminently resourceful, He is able to devise ways to guide people toward doing what He wants for them. And they argue that because God is sovereign, He will eventually accomplish His will for mankind.

Personally I think that the open theistic view accounts better than the classical view does for the successes and failures that I read about in the Bible and see in my own and others’ lives. For example, I don’t think that David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband occurred because this was God’s will for him and them. He let David do what he chose to do and then stepped in to bring good out of the situation.

For an explanation of how God provides guidance from an open theistic perspective, see the section on divine guidance in “Practical Implications” by David Basinger in Clark Pinnock et al’s The Openness of God (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994; pages 162-168). Criticism and defence of it also appear, respectively, in Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000; pages 177-189) and John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 275-278).

In May I’ll be posting a short study of Ephesians 6:10-18 (Spiritual warfare and the armour of God), and in June I’ll be posting updates of my posts last fall on the best books and websites/blogs on open theism. Please let me know of books and websites that you think should be included in the latter.