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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Open Theism research

One of the theological debates going on these days is Open Theism.  One of the official websites for Open Theism is found at http://www.opentheism.info/.  Recently they published a research paper of mine.  It is an introduction to Open Theism that tries to focus on some of the key issues and foundational themes.  In the paper I don’t take a position one way or the other on Open Theism – it is strictly an attempt to introduce Open Theism and get to the heart of the debate.

You can find it here:


Jesse said...

So after a study of open theism, what is your view? Has it remained true to the message of scripture, or has it swayed?

Jesse said...

Still waiting for a reply................but until then I guess I will answer my own question. I think open theism has remained true to the message of scripture. Though it has many opponents who think otherwise, I believe it is classical theology that has lost its path. Though I believe open theology to be true, I have gained respect for some of its opponents such as Bruce Ware. His book, "God's Lesser Glory" was much more studious than Geisler's "Battle for God". I will never read Geisler again. Your turn.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sorry Jesse! I have had it in my mind to do a thorough review of Open Theism, so I was sort of thinking that such a review would answer your question. But here, in a nutshell, is what I think regarding the question of Open Theism and Scripture.

I think that many Open Theists rightly recognize the "openness" of the future and the "openness" of God. There is a strong message in Scripture that we as people must live our lives to actually affect the future. That's why King Hezekiah pleaded with God to change His plans about Hezekiah's life. God had decreed that Hezekiah would not recover from his illness. After Hezekiah's prayer of petition God changed the decree. What do we learn? That we must pray REAL PRAYERS to affect the future. Even if it means praying against all the odds.

This is just one example where the Open Theists are biblically on track, as far as I'm concerned. This is also where the Classical position has failed. Most Calvinist churches just ignore the Hezekiah passages or they qualify it so much that it doesn't carry any real value anymore. And all of this is to preserve their view of God's providence, i.e. that God has control of anything and everything. The Classical position seems guilty of emphasizing one side of biblical theology to the neglect of another.

Yet, conversely, I believe Open Theism guilty of the same charge, but in reverse. Open Theists seem to be so keen on emphasizing the open passages (like Hezekiah) that they neglect passages that seem to clearly present God as having a preordained plan. An example of this is Ephesians chapter one where we read that God loved believers in advance and predestined them to receive the gift of salvation. Or Acts 17:26 tells us that God determined the exact times and places where people were to live. And then, of course, there is the famous Romans 9 passage...The point is that there seems to be a strong biblical point that God is in control, and that much or all of what goes on here on earth is preplanned. Has the Open Theist missed the point here? Have they added so many qualifications to these passages to the point where the passages don't seem to hold any real value anymore?

So, where does that leave us??? I think that there are two sides of the theological coin here: The one side is the fact that we are free and responsible creatures who should pray and act as though we REALLY affect the future because guess what? We do! The other side of the coin is the fact that in some way there is nothing that happens outside of the control of our God. I don't understand how it works out in the mind of God, but I think that's his business, anyway.

Jesse said...

Thanks for the reply. I think overall, though we may disagree, I think you have a healthy acknowledgment of open theists and their place in theology. I would hope that all opponents to open theism would follow your example in taking steps to recognize its strengths, without cutting off proponents from the church. I believe theologians such as RC Sproul have been very harmful to constructive dialogue within the church. I would like to make a few comments on your comment that Open theists have neglected passages that show God having a preordained plan. I think open theists have done everything not to neglect these passages. They have worked very hard to answer the many objections due to these passages. A few examples: Ephesians 1, John Sanders deals with this passage in The God Who Risks on page 102 and speaks of ‘Corporate Election’. Corporate Election is not just a tool that open theism uses to bypass this passage. William Lane Craig who is very much an opponent to Open theism also subscribes to corporate election. Acts 17:26 has been tackled by GA Boyd in Satan and the Problem of Evil on p413 and numerous places in God of the Possible. Romans 9, is also dealt with in most open theism literature. However, many non-open theists also interpret this passage in a non-individual salvation scope as well, such as NT Wright. Anyway, I just wanted to make my point that they have done much to not neglect these passages. But the question still remains, have they remained true to the intended message of scripture?

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