Breaking Fellowship on the Basis of Perceived Implications?
Ware argues that open theists should be excluded from the Evangelical Theological Society on the grounds that their view has “seriously unacceptable theological and practical implications.” Among other things, Ware believes open theism implies that God can’t do what the Bible says God does, that God holds false beliefs and possesses imperfect wisdom, that God can’t be trusted to guide believers, and that the Bible is not inerrant. Of course, open theists within the Evangelical Theological Society have responded to these sorts of charges numerous times before in writing—though, unfortunately, one would never surmise this from Ware’s essay.
Two things need to be said about this. First, Ware may not find our responses convincing, but it would be nice—to say nothing of displaying more academic integrity—if he would have interacted somewhat with our responses rather than proceeding as though we have no response. One almost gets the impression from Ware’s essay that he’s catching open theists totally off guard with new criticisms.
Second, one must be very careful about dismissing a position—to say nothing of breaking fellowship with a group of believers—on the basis of the implications they think follow from that position. After all, to many Arminians and open theists, the Calvinism Ware defends seems to deny the glory of God, the universal love of God, the wisdom of God, the urgency of prayer, the genuineness of God’s interactions with us, human moral responsibility, the need for missions, and many other things. Yet, since Calvinists themselves don’t deny these things, they are accepted as sisters and brothers in Christ. Arminians and open theists may judge them to be (fortunately) logically inconsistent, but we shouldn’t ascribe to them conclusions which we think follow from their position but which they themselves deny.
Open theists would simply like this Christian and academic courtesy to be extended to us. Ware obviously can’t understand how we avoid the implications he ascribes to us. Fine, perhaps we are simply logical nincompoops. Or perhaps (as I believe), Ware has difficulty getting inside of a system of thought that is radically different from his own. But in either case, it seems misguided and unchristian to move to brand a position as “non-evangelical” because some can’t understand how they avoid certain negative implications they think their theology implies. Our explicit confessions of faith, not what others think logically follows from our confessions of faith, should be the basis of our fellowship.