A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4

Martyn McGeown proceeds to offer two more points against Open Theism: Open Theism wrongly suggests the crucifixion did not have to happen and Open Theism is incompatible with “true substitutionary atonement.” McGeown writes:

This is astounding. Christ’s incarnation was determined but not the cross?…

Sanders misses the point that the only reason why the Son became incarnate was to save the church. If there had been no fall, there would have been no need for the incarnation. And if the cross was not settled until Gethsemane why did Jesus repeatedly prophesy His death and even the means whereby He would die (Matt. 16:21; 20:18-19; John 3:14; 6:51; 10:11; 12:32-33; etc.) and what are we to make of passages such as Isaiah 53 which the New Testament insist were fulfilled at Calvary? God knew exactly, because He had planned exactly, how His Son would lay down His life for His elect (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

Any claim that the crucifixion could or could not have been avoided should be made on the basis of what the text of the Bible claims. Jesus spends ample time discussing if the crucifixion will happen. We see both statements that the crucifixion is predicted and that it can be avoided. Among Jesus’ statements is Jesus wondering if he should pray to forgo the crucifixion (Joh 12:27), Jesus praying to forgo the crucifixion (Mat 26:39, Mar 14:36, Luk 22:32), and Jesus explaining that God would honor His request to forgo the crucifixion at any time (Mat 26:53). These texts should very much inform the discussion on Jesus’ thoughts on the matter.

This is all in addition to God’s normal operating procedures (where God often changes His mind or even defers to mankind on how to do things). In Ezekiel 4, God commands that Ezekiel bake his food with human dung, Ezekiel objects, and God instantly allows Ezekiel to use cow dung. It does not bother God to change His plans in response to prayer.

McGeown gives a list of passage references that predict that Jesus would die and rise. Something has to be done with the apparent contradiction between McGeown’s texts and the texts in which Jesus shows the crucifixion can be avoided. To McGeown, his passages are taken as absolute; overriding any text that would suggest the crucifixion is not fixed. To the Open Theists, they take the more natural way of solving these discrepancies. Even very strong statements about future events are optional and can be reversed. If I say to my children that there is “no way” that I will give them ice cream because they have been naughty, they still might redeem themselves in some way. I might not think twice about then giving them ice cream after all. My strong statement about the future, as strong as it may be, is still flexible. This is normal in everyday conversation, and the Bible is no different.

In Jeremiah 18, God talks about several reversals that He entertains. He uses strong language about the future in each case. God might “think” He will do something, God might “say” that He will do something, but everything is not fixed in stone (despite what God previously promised):

Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

We see this in action as God revokes “eternal” promises:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

These examples are given, not to verse trump, but to show how language functions at a basic level. Any secular example would be just as valid. To understand the conflicting verses about the future, using normal speaking conventions (which are used throughout the Bible for the exact same purpose) seems more rational than inventing a strange adherence the absoluteness of future statements. The future is just not absolute and it is not treated as absolute by the Bible. Strong statements often do not materialize for various reasons.

McGeown also believes Open Theism affects views on the atonement:

In addition, open theism makes nonsense of the atonement. A universal atonement which does not save everyone is not a true substitutionary atonement. That is the blasphemy of Arminianism…

This is strange, indeed. McGeown presupposes some obscure, technical, and completely extra-Biblical definition of “atonement”. There are several competing views of the atonement. The atonement debate is held between opponents offering ambiguous verses that well post-date Jesus’ earthly ministry. To be adamant about one particular theory on atonement is strange. To call everyone else “blasphemers” is even stranger. Where is the Biblical precedence for particular views of the atonement to be the indicator between false and true Christians? Or is this just another Greek invention where philosophy trumps the concerns of those who wrote the Bible?

McGeown quotes Ware:

Therefore there could be no actual imputation of our sin to Christ … In fact, Christ would have had reason to wonder, as he hung on that cross, whether for any, or for how many, and for what sins, he was now giving his life. The sin paid for could only be sin in principle, and not sin by imputation, and the people died for was a blurry, impersonal, faceless, nameless, and numberless potential grouping.

These quotes from McGeown and Ware show in what warped mindset they operate. In what way are McGeown and Ware making coherent arguments? If I have a software that I give out for free, who cares if I know how many people will accept that free software. If Bill Gates funds a free ice cream cone for everyone in America, who cares if he knows how many people will eat that ice cream. But McGeown and Ware have a strange fascination with Jesus having to know (by name, date, and type) all sins that will ever occur? Where is the Bible concerned with such things? How does this even work with the fact that Jesus is depicted as learning throughout the gospels and as admitting to not knowing the end times? No doubt, Ware and McGeown would proffer some strange dualism where Jesus divests omniscience yet gets to selectively use it in the gospels when it fits Calvinist theology (apparently Jesus got a burst of omniscience on the cross). In order to save absurdities, more absurdities are invented.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]


  1. Jesus had been promised by the Father that He would have a seed to serve Him. That is the only assurance that surely some men shall be saved. This paraphrases and argument from Charles Finney that he uses to prove his views on perseverance which unfortunately are rooted in eternal now belief but his assertion that Christ is promised a reward for His suffering I think can be received.

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