Sympathy For The Dev….er….Open Theist

If you have read my blog you know that I am not a supporter of Open Theism.  I do not believe it accurately represents the Biblical account of divine omniscience.  However, many are quick to discount Open Theism without having a clue as to what Open Theists really believe.  Many have gained their view on Open Theism by reading critiques of the view rather than reading from the defenders of the view.  Critiques aren’t always accurate and many who offer critiques have not familiarized themselves with the view they are trying to refute [link].  I have seen Open Theism misrepresented by Calvinists and Arminians.  For those interested in gaining a proper perspective on the Open view from a strong proponent of the Open Theism, I recommend reading the following articles by Greg Boyd [link].

While I disagree with Open Theism I respect Open Theists as they are trying to honestly grapple with certain passages of Scripture that seem to contradict classical understandings of divine omniscience.  They reference passages in the OT where God is portrayed as learning, seemingly uncertain of future contingencies, changing His mind, and regretting certain decisions that He has made (e.g. Jer. 3:7–8, 19–20; 18:7–10;  Isa. 5:1–5; Ezek. 12:2; Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35; Exod. 4:1–9; 32:10–14; Jonah 3:10, etc.).  Those who hold to the classical position regarding God’s omniscience interpret these passages in light of Scriptures which seem to teach God’s exhaustive foreknowledge (e.g. Isa. 46:10–11; Isa. 48:3).  The Open Theist takes the opposite approach and looks to interpret passages like these in light of those passages which seem to limit God’s knowledge.  How can we know which is the proper approach?  I am satisfied with the approach of those who hold to the classical view, but I cannot say that the approach of Open Theism presents an invalid hermeneutic.  It is just a different hermeneutical approach and therefore leads to different conclusions (and those conclusions are what Open Theism amounts to).

Again, I reject Open Theism but I am “open” and honest enough to admit that they make some strong points which are not easily dismissed.  Their position is built on Scriptures (like those listed above) and an honest attempt to understand those Scriptures against the backdrop of the entirety of the Biblical data .  I admit that I find the typical answers to their questions concerning the passages they cite to be unsatisfying (I don’t think that these passages can be explained away as just anthropomorphisms).  I think that we who reject Open Theism need to fairly represent their views and grapple with those passages which seem to support their view.  And I think we need to respect the fact that Open Theists are primarily concerned with being honest with God’s revelation, and that this desire is what drives them to the conclusions we (those who hold to the classical position) find uncomfortable.

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7 Responses

  1. Well, say it ain’t so Joe!

    Is this a fair rendering of OT?:::> [[Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.]]

    I cannot remember where I cut that from so I am a bit short on crediting it particularly. I am particularly not crediting those words as my own.

  2. Michael,

    That list doesn’t represent Open Theism, it just represents Christianity. Arminians, Calvinists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Open Theists should all be able to agree with that statement.

  3. You’re obviously a nice guy who likes to give others the benefit of the doubt. That is fine as far as it goes but at some point love must be tough.

    Open theism isn’t just another acceptable alternative interpretive framework. It’s open heresy. Comments like yours give ample fodder to the Calvinists’ slippery slope argument, i.e., “See, I told you!! Start out an Arminian and you’ll inevitably fall into heresy like open theism.” You and I know that needn’t be the case, but you teeter precipitously on the edge of the pit by giving credibility to this position that flies in the face of clear Scriptural and historically understood truth.

    Though they like to retain elements of Scriptural language, the unavoidable end result of OT is reducing the great and terrible Lord God Almighty, at whose wrath the Earth will tremble and the mountains flee from before His face, to little more than an emasculated pagan deity, cowering and impotent in the face of circumstances beyond His knowledge and control.

    We must reject Calvinist excesses but in doing so we should never swing to the opposite pole, which OT does to the nth degree.

    May the Lord give us true wisdom in discerning truth from error and giving no place to the latter.

  4. David,

    Thank you for your concern. One of the main points of the post was to encourage people to understand what they attack before they attack it. I would say the same thing concerning Calvinism and Arminianism. I get frustrated when Calvinists attack Arminianism based on the caricatures of Calvinist writers without ever having read from James Arminius or any prominent Arminian authors (and no, Dave Hunt doesn’t count). That is unacceptable and hinders honest dialogue. The same is true for Open Theism. Many of the strongest attacks come from those who have just read Ware’s caricature of OT, etc. without ever taking the time to actually read from Open Theists themselves.

    The other point I wanted to make was that the Open Theists are primarily concerned with being true to the testimony of Scripture. You and I can disagree but we need to acknowledge that they do have certain Scriptures on their side that we who disagree need to honestly and carefully deal with. It is not enough to just cry “heresy!” How do you deal with the passages I cited in this post? Can you take on the strength of the OT position and show it to be in error, or do you just focus on the perceived weaknesses? If we want to defeat OT then we need to attack their strength.

    I oppose Open Theism and I am troubled that they use some of the same philosophical arguments against divine foreknowledge as Calvinists, but there arguments are likewise invalid in my opinion. I am more concerned with the Biblical data as a whole than philosophical arguments and I am more concerned with any belief system being properly represented and honestly examined before being attacked as heresy.

    I am also content to let people decide the issue for themselves and trust that God will lead them into truth. I am not supporting Open Theism by saying, “Hey, read what they believe before you attack and have a ready answer for the Scriptures they find support their system.” I am supporting honesty. I am trying to abide by the golden rule as I do not want to be criticized without first being understood, and I don’t find it fair when others call me a heretic because they feel my beliefs do not harmonize with certain passages of Scripture while those same people won’t honestly deal with the passages that I believe contradict their theology. Make sense?

    God Bless,
    Ben

    BTW, did you take the time to read the articles by Boyd that I linked to? He has numerous essays on Responses to Objections (below). You may be surprised to discover that OT’s like Boyd have answers for those who claim they are heretics. If you want to defeat OT you better educate yourself because people can access this information and if they realize that the best arguments from those who oppose OT have been answered (because the people who make those arguments have not kept up with the discussion) and that those who oppose OT have not given adequate answers to the questions raised by OT proponents, then they may be led to believe that OT is true. If you don’t want that to happen, then you better educate yourself and attack their strengths.

    http://www.gregboyd.org/category/qa/open-theism/responses-to-objections/

  5. michael,

    That quote comes from Bob Enyart (an open future advocate) in his debate with Samuel Lamerson (a Calvinist). Here is the source: http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showpost.php?p=826464&postcount=6 [.]

    If you scroll down to the sub-section entitled
    “God’s Attributes: Open View,” it is in the first paragraph immediately below.

  6. I don’t agree with Open Theism either but I feel the same sympathy as you do. We actually have two Open Theist in our church but I know them to be genuine, loving, and seeking disciples. In fact, their passion for God is awesome! Yet I disagree with their theology. We agree, however, on many other issues and that allows us to fellowship. While I understand those who want to condemn Open Theism as heresy, I would ask you to first sit down and reason with an Open Theist and you might find they are simply wrestling with Scripture and God’s sovereignty. We must keep 2 Timothy 2:24-25 in mind.

  7. While I understand those who want to condemn Open Theism as heresy, I would ask you to first sit down and reason with an Open Theist and you might find they are simply wrestling with Scripture and God’s sovereignty. We must keep 2 Timothy 2:24-25 in mind.

    Amen! Thanks for the comment.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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