Below is a letter to the editor of The Northerner, in response to Kristen Reuter’s article The God You Can Trust: A Response to Open Theism.
I read with interest Kristen Reuter’s article The God you can trust: A response to open theism. She begins here article questioning Open Theist tradition and then comparing it to Socinianism. This is interesting for several reasons.
1. Ms Reuter seems to come from a Protestant background and seems unfazed by the relatively new break from the Catholic Church. It is odd that the Appeal to Tradition fallacy is used as an argument against Open Theists and not equally against Protestantism in general.
2. She links Open Theism with Socinianism, whose main features have very little to do with Open Theism and from which no Open Theist claims heritage. This seems to be a Poisoning of the Well, rather than a real argument. I would also like to assure Ms Rueter than most heretics throughout history have accepted her views of God’s knowledge.
3. Ms Rueter skips over historical figures that have accepted Open Theism on Biblical terms, such as L. D. McCabe (1878), William Biederwolf (1906), and Gordon Olson in the 1940s.
Ms Rueter then urges a return to the Bible, and I would suggest the same. Like any text we approach, we cannot import our theology onto the text. When reading Homer, Zeus is described as all-knowing, eternal, and controlling all things. Contextually, we understand this means Zeus has general surveillance of the world, is divine (although he did not exist eternally in the past) and that he reacts to events as he sees them happen.
It would be a huge mistake to import 16th century understandings of omniscience, timelessness, and sovereignty onto these ancient texts. Instead we need to look towards immediate context to understand how the authors viewed their own concepts.
When the Bible describes God as repenting His own actions (Gen 6:6), revoking eternal promises (1Sa 2:30), and expecting events that do not materialize (Isa 5:4), we ought not override those texts with appeals to vague prooftexts whose context does not suggest 16th century metaphysics.
When Ms Rueter references a quote by God’s enemy, Balaam (Num 23:19), to override quotes by Yahweh (1Sa 15:11), we ought to understand that God and narrators take precedence over quotes by characters in a story. Likewise, when we want to know the author’s view of God, the overall narrative takes precedence over chance phrases. Normal reading comprehension should be our guide.
And we should definitely not hedge our theology on militant definitions of adjectives or prepositions, both of which are largely fluid in meaning in any language and culture.
Ms Rueter seems like an intelligent, young lady. I just ask that she put aside her modern preconceptions when approaching ancient Semitic scriptures.
Christopher Fisher, author of God is Open: Examining the Open Theism of the Biblical Authors.
She might like to read “Theology in the Flesh” by John Sanders. This is applicable to the “fluid in meaning in any language and culture” part of this article.