Apologetics Thursday – Responding to Eight Criticisms

By Christopher Fisher

Quoted from The Dangers of Open Theism:

Richard L. Mayhue wrote an excellent critique of Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible. Since Boyd is at the forefront of open theism, Mayhue’s essay summarizes the theological errors of the entire movement. In “The Impossibility of God of the Possible” Mayhue lists eight reasons why Boyd and open theism fails:

1) The history of orthodox Christian doctrine declares against, not for, Boyd’s position.

2) God of the Possible depends upon philosophy, not theology, to prove its point.

3) This volume deifies man and humanizes God.

4) Boyd discards the unknown, mysterious dimensions of God in his discussions.

5) The book is built with an aberrant methodology.

6) God of the Possible dismisses the literary device of anthropopathism (ascribing human emotions and feelings to God).

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

8) The author downplays determinative biblical texts.

1) The history of orthodox Christian doctrine declares against, not for, Boyd’s position.

The protestant reformation overturned the entire history of orthodox thought. Calvin and Augustine overturned the history of thought of Free Will. The modern church is nowhere near as apocalyptic as the very early church. Any modern Christian revolts against historical orthodoxy on some level.

The use of the Church Fathers is to help understand what early Christians understood as Christian doctrine. But these views need to be taken with a grain of salt. Most of these writings originated in Greek converts coming from Platonistic backgrounds, some of whom, like Augustine, denied the Bible in order to accept it. Is Mayhue willing to call the Bible absurd unless viewed through Platonism, like Augustine did?

2) God of the Possible depends upon philosophy, not theology, to prove its point.

There are plenty of good works that are Biblically based. Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament is a prime example of textual, and not philosophically based, Open Theistic views.

3) This volume deifies man and humanizes God.

Man was made in the image of God. On some level, man resembled God. Mayhue wishes to sever this important link which is thematic in the Bible.

4) Boyd discards the unknown, mysterious dimensions of God in his discussions.

Unknown and mysterious should not be confused with self-contradictory. Appealing to mystery when faced with contradictions is a logical fallacy, and should not be entertained by rational people.

5) The book is built with an aberrant methodology.

This is a subjective claim. One can equally claim that making up a concept like anthropomorphism/ anthropopathism (which is alien to normal human communications) and using it to discard any problem texts is an “aberrant methodology”.

6) God of the Possible dismisses the literary device of anthropopathism (ascribing human emotions and feelings to God).

When figures of speech are used, they have meaning. When someone is called the “hand of the King”, that means they have power and support of the King. What does God repented mean? What does God became angry mean? The Bible is replete with these descriptions of God. Mayhue would have them have no meaning, the opposite meaning of what concept they depict. This is a claim that the Bible is filled with speech alien to human conversation and filled with lies. So, yes, anthropopathism is as bogus as Open Theists making up a word petamorphism to explain away any problem texts.

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

Mayhue engages in Dignum Deo theology, which is fallacious thinking. One cannot just make up attributes they think God should have and then expect reality to conform to that image.

8) The author downplays determinative biblical texts.

Unlike anthropopathisms, hyperboles and generalizations are used all the time in human language. Even in the last sentence “all the time” is a hyperbole (or generalization). They are used so frequently that readers do not even catch each figure of speech. The Old Testament concept of God is one in which an array of specific acts by God are examined and then are generalized into attributes.

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

Israel’s testimony, however, is not to be understood as a claim subject to historical explication or to philosophical understanding. It is rather an utterance that proposes that this particular past be construed according to this utterance. For our large purposes we should note, moreover, that such testimonial utterance in Israel is characteristically quite concrete, and only on the basis of many such concrete evidence does Israel dare to generalize.

Declaring that certain general texts are “determinative” is bad theology. The determinative texts are the longer narratives about God’s thoughts and actions.

Leave a Reply