One day a very fine, eager, passionate theology student followed me from class to my office. (I still remember his name after all these years!) He sat next to my desk and said (I quote): “Dr. Olson, I am sorry to tell you this, but you are not a Christian.” Naturally, to say the least, I was taken aback. I asked him why he would say that. His answer was “Because you’re not a Calvinist.” I then asked him where he got the idea that a non-Calvinist could not be a Christian. His response: “From my pastor—John Piper.” Years later (in about 1998) I had occasion to speak directly with Piper about that and he insisted that he never said non-Calvinists could not be Christians. I pointed out to him that many of his “Piper cubs” (what we at Bethel came to call students who followed him) believed such. He admitted that was probably true but claimed they were misunderstanding him. Since then I have read many of Piper’s books and watched/listened to many of his podcasts and have indeed never heard him say that a non-Calvinist cannot be a Christian. However, I believe I do see how a naïve, impressionable, young, “newly minted” Calvinist might (mis)interpret some of what he says that way.
From Oord’s collection of essays on the Uncontrolling Love of God. Angela Monroe writes:
Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if this is true. It feels like the opposite. Sometimes I ask God to take control of my life, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t answer me one way or the other. He is silent. Sometimes, bad things happen. When there is seemingly endless pain and suffering around me, how I am supposed to believe that God is in control? It’s not the easiest thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t bring me comfort when I think about the purposeless pain that, if God were really in control, he could have prevented.
Five children died and at least 12 were hospitalized after the bus plowed into a tree and flipped over in the Tennessee city.
Walker, 24, now faces five counts of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.
“Based on witness statements and physical evidence, the defendant was driving the school bus at a high rate of speed, well above the posted speed limit of 30 mph,” his arrest warrant affidavit says.
“Mr. Walker lost control of the bus and swerved off of the roadway to the right, striking an elevated driveway and mailbox, swerved to the left and began to overturn, striking a telephone pole and a tree.”
Cook said she’s grieving for the families of the children killed — but said her son is also suffering.
“My heart of love is going out for all that was in harm’s way of God’s will,” she said. “Sending out mine and our condolences to every family that God touched yesterday in this horrible accident. And I am asking for compassion also for my son.”
Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.
We hear people say “Life dealt me a crappy hand” as if pain and hardships are not the norm. We assume that life is supposed to be easy and when things don’t go our way, we feel like we have been wronged. Human beings seem to have an innate sense of entitlement. We think that we are owed a pain-free existence.
But the truth is that human beings are not exempt from the human experience. And struggle is an innate part of the human experience. None of us are exceptions to this rule. We all struggle. We all suffer. We all experience pain, heartache and loss. And sometimes, there’s just no reason other than we are human and pain is a part of the process.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who was struggling to find peace with “God’s plan” for her life including the recent death of a loved one.
“How could this possibly be God’s will?” she asked.
Here’s what I’ve come to know about God’s will:
God’s will is not the path we walk, but rather how we walk the path.
God’s plan is never for someone to have cancer. God’s will is not for an innocent child to be brutally murdered. God’s will is not for a teenage girl to be raped. God’s will is not chronic pain, illness, disability or death.
God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens.
From C Michael Patton’s Why Arminianism Won’t Preach (And Calvinism Won’t Sell):
Think about the major conferences out there that are theological in nature: Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and Ligonier Ministries. All of them fill churches and arenas with thousands of people. Passion fills the air as speakers talk about theological issues in the church. John Piper, Don Carson, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Tim Keller, and the like are invited to speak. Diversity runs deep in these theology conferences. Dispensationalist and Covenant Theologians, paedobaptists and credo baptists, charismatics and non-charismatics, and premillenialists and amillenialists are all represented. However, it is hard to find an Arminian invited to (much less putting together) such engagements. Why? I don’t know, but I suspect that it is because Arminianism, as a theological distinctive, just does not preach. Don’t get me wrong. I did not say that Arminians can’tpreach. They most certainly can. And I did not say that Arminianism is not true (this is not the question on the table). It is simply that the distinctives of Arminianism do not ignite passions in such settings. Evangelicals love to hear about the sovereignty of God, the glory of God in suffering, the security of God’s grace, the providence of God over missions, and yes, even the utter depravity of man. This stuff preaches. This stuff sells tickets.
For the Arminian to put together a distinctive conference, things would be a bit less provocative. Things like “The Responsibility of Man in Suffering,” “Man’s Role in Salvation,” or “The Insecurity of Salvation” won’t preach too well. Think about how hard it is for a Calvinist to try to plug in a token Arminian at a general theology conference. On what subject do you let them speak? “Roger Olson, I would like you to come to our conference and speak on . . . (papers ruffling) . . . ummm . . . (papers ruffling more) . . . Do you do anything in apologetics (except suffering)?”
Last week, on Apologetics Thursday, there was an article concerning Ron Nash’s case against Open Theism. I had the opportunity to meet Ron Nash when I attended Summit Ministries in August of 2000. I was 17 at the time and spent one lunch talking with Ron Nash.
I asked him about Open Theism. I referenced the events in Genesis 22 (he might have brought up Genesis 22; it was a long time ago), where God tests Abraham and then declares “Now I know” when Abraham chooses to sacrifice his son for God. Ron Nash did not directly address the Genesis 22 text. Instead he directed my attention to Genesis 3.
He talked about how in the garden God asks Adam “Where are you?” Did God know where Abraham was when God said this? “Well yes,” was the implied response. Nash then proceeded to claim that Genesis 22 is much like Genesis 3 in regards to an apparent lack of knowledge. He also claimed that Open Theists say God did not know where Adam was in Genesis 3 (a statement which I instantly saw as a straw man, as I did not know any Open Theists who made that claim). He said the problem with this is that this position denies “present” knowledge.
I did not have the time to address the counter-arguments to this. After all, Genesis 3, if God did know where Abraham was, could easily be a “known answer question”. The purpose of these questions is to test to see if someone will tell the truth or instead tell a lie. In other words, even in the event of a “known answer question”, God is attempting to learn about how people will act. The assumption is that God does not already know.
Another thing to note is that it is not at all clear that Yahweh in the text does know where Adam is. Yahweh is described as walking through the garden in “the cool of the day”. The scene is almost like a leisurely stroll and suggests this is a common occurrence. Often events like these are called theophanies and the claim is that this individual is Jesus. Why force omniscience on the text if this is the case? Theologians who know Jesus’ claims of non-knowledge of certain events would not claim Jesus in the New Testament “knows everything”. Why impose omniscience on the Old?
Regardless, the Genesis 3 event has little in common with the Genesis 22 event. Genesis 22 does not pose a question with anticipated response. Instead it is a statement. The statement fits the events of the narrative, and cannot easily be dismissed as a “known answer question” or other such metaphor. Metaphors mean something. They are intended to communicate parallels. What Ron Nash is Genesis 22 “Now I know” meant to communicate to the readers?
I didn’t get the chance to follow up with Mr Nash. He died 6 years later in 2006.
The plan for GodisOpen has always been to collect a running list of common prooftexts and create an easily navigable reference site. That project will be collected in the new subsite Quick Verse Reference. This site will compile a quick reference list for common verses used by Open Theists and verses used against Open Theists. This site can be accessed via the Resources tab.
The plan is to gradually expand this list each week, ultimately becoming the best tool for new Open Theists to understand various verses throughout the Bible.
10. Pain for all involved
Oord and his wife still feel the pain of the ordeal. He and others say he’s unlikely to ever be hired again by a Nazarene college, because any president who took him on could also face Oord’s critics.
“I have been ousted here for all intents and purposes,” says Oord, who may try to get on at a Methodist school.
The pain also extends to the campus and Idaho Nazarenes, says Borger.
“I feel badly that it happened as it happened and the way it was portrayed,” said Borger, the former Nazarene district superintendent. “I feel badly for Tom and his family. I feel badly for NNU. I feel badly for the Church of the Nazarene.”
Arminian William Birch advocates humanizing those with whom we might morally disagree:
My amateur opinion is that people like Omar [the Muslim mass shooter of a homosexual nightclub] maintain the cognitive distortion of objectifying people. He viewed LGBTQ people as mere objects of his disgust and hatred. They are not, in his mind, people of inestimable value and dignity as image-bearers of God. They are “things” of a vile nature that deserve to be eradicated, much like some loathed insect, or disease. This is the same sort of objectification maintained by the Nazis against the Jewish people. This is the same sort of demeaning and devaluing of the human nature of Armenians by the Ottomans in the early twentieth century. Indeed, we even see traces of this horrible state of mind when men objectify women, and women objectify men for sensual and sexual pleasure. We need a mass ontological-perceptual reformation — viewing human beings as does God, as image-bearers of the Divine.
Not until a tragic accident that involved the passing of a dear youth member and friend that, the Classic theistic view somewhat crumbled. Some people were telling or at least implying that God is the author of life and if that is true, my friend’s death was somewhat authored by God. As I thought about it, far be it that I accepted that frame work for God. If I believed in a God who cared why then would he author a tragic story for my friend like one a novelist would do to his characters.
Enter Open Theism. This is a view which responds to Classic Theism. This view believes that God does not know the future exhaustively, leaving the future open for us to partner with him. Hence this view is a strong argument for the proposal of why prayer is important. Since the future is open and God does not know exhaustively, we partner with God in ways that we somehow can change his mind.
For a period of time, I guess in a subtle manner, my views gravitated towards open theism because it somehow showed a God who can show love to his creation rather than one who has already written about your whole life and somehow you are stuck in that story he wrote whether you like it or not. Somehow classic theism did not really resonate well with a God who is loving. I mean sure you can say that God knows what’s best but there is no room for free will here.
So with all these issues plunging in my mind, it seemed to me that open theism held more sense than a mechanical, detached sovereign God.
The God is Open website presents an entirely overhauled bookstore. On this page lists the main books about Open Theism and also adds supplementary reading suggestions. Each image is linked to Amazon for easy access. Ordering through the links on this page helps support GodisOpen.com, which has never and does not currently accept donations. Books which have free versions available will be listed on the Resources page with links to the free versions.
Click the link or find the Books subpage under the Resources dropdown.
Roger Olson recounts the hostility of Calvinism to both Open Theism and Arminianism:
I left Bethel in 1999 partly because of John Piper. Bethel and the BGC were then in the midst of a very heated, very divisive controversy about open theism. My colleague Greg Boyd was actually tried for heresy on campus. He and his theology of open theism were exonerated and found by the jury, on which I sat, to be “within evangelical boundaries.” That only added fuel to the fire raging among BGC pastors and greater pressure came down on not only Greg but on me for defending him and his theology as not heretical.
It was clear to me then that John Piper was at the center of that controversy—at least within the BGC and Bethel. He told me to my face that he would not try to get me fired merely for being Arminian, as much as he did not like Arminianism, but that he would get me fired for defending open theism as an “evangelical option.”
After that meeting Piper and I exchanged many letters and e-mails. I read many of his books as they were published. I listened to many of his talks on tape and then watched many of his podcasts on the web. I believed I was noticing a harsher tone toward Arminianism. Students who heard him speak at Passion conferences and other places began to ask me about Piper and especially about his Calvinism. And, as they knew I am Arminian, many of them have asked me over the past seventeen years—since I left Bethel and the BGC partly to escape Piper’s influence—about what they perceive as Piper’s misrepresentations of Arminianism.
That was one reason I wrote Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press)—to correct misunderstandings and misrepresentations of true Arminianism. I made sure Piper received a copy. My main point in that book was that real Arminianism is not primarily about free will; it is primarily about the character of God. Using many quotations from Arminius himself and leading Arminian theologians since 1609 (when Arminius died) I demonstrated conclusively that true Arminianism is not obsessed with humanistic belief in free will; it is obsessed with God as revealed in Jesus Christ as loving and good and wanting all people to be saved. I have gone to great lengths there and here and in recorded talks later put up on the web to emphasize and prove that Arminianism is not what John Piper and other (mostly Calvinist) critics say it is. I have practically begged them to stop misrepresenting it as “human-centered love of free will and self-determination.”
Articles and book chapters on open theism by John Sanders
1. “A Goldilocks God: Open Theism as a Feuerbachian Alternative?” Coauthored with J. Aaron Simmons. Element: The Journal for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (December, 2015).
2. “Open Theism.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, April, 2015.
3. “Open Theistic Perspectives—The Freedom of Creation” in Ernst Conradie ed., Creation and Salvation Volume 2: A Companion on Recent Theological Movements (LIT Verlag, Berlin, 2012).
4. “Open Creation and the Redemption of the Environment,” Wesleyan Theological Journal, 47/1 (Spring 2012): 141-149.
5. “Open Theism” in the Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Theology ed. Albert Truesdale (Beacon Hill Press, 2012).
6. “Divine Reciprocity and Epistemic Openness in Clark Pinnock’s Theology,” The Other Journal: the Church and Postmodernity (January 2012).
7. “The Eternal Now and Theological Suicide: A Reply to Laurence Wood,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 45.2 (Fall, 2010): 67-81.
8. “Theological Muscle-Flexing: How Human Embodiment Shapes Discourse About God,” in Thomas Jay Oord ed., Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science (Pickwick Publications, 2009).
9. “Divine Suffering in Open Theism” in D. Steven Long ed., The Sovereignty of God Debate (Wipf and Stock, 2008).
10. “Responses to Bacote, Kalantzis, Lodahl, and Long” in Steven Long ed., The Sovereignty of God Debate (Wipf and Stock, 2008).
11. “Divine Providence and the Openness of God,” in Bruce Ware ed., Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views (Broadman & Holman, 2008).
12. “Responses to Helm, Ware and Olson,” in Bruce Ware ed., Perspectives on Doctrine of God: Four Views (Broadman & Holman, 2008).
13. “An Introduction to Open Theism,” Reformed Review, Vol. 60, no. 2 (Spring 2007). The issue includes three articles responding to my article. http://www.westernsem.edu/files/westernsem/john%20sanders%20article.pdf
14. “How Do We Decide What God is Like?” in And God saw that it was good: Essays on Creation and God in Honor of Terence E. Fretheim, ed. Frederick Gaiser and Mark Throntveit, (Word & World supplement series 5, April, 2006). [This is not on open theism directly. It deals with the values and concerns that motivate which views we find acceptable.]
15. “Response to the Stone Campbell Movement and Open Theism,” in Evangelicalism and the Stone-Campbell Movement, Vol. 2, ed. William Baker (Abilene Christian University Press, 2006).
16. “On Reducing God to Human Proportions” in Semper Reformandum: Studies in Honour of Clark Pinnock, eds. Anthony Cross and Stanley Porter (Paternoster, U.K. and Eerdmans, U.S. 2003), pp. 111-125.
17. “Is Open Theism a Radical Revision or Miniscule Modification of Arminianism?” Wesleyan Theological Journal 38.2 (Fall 2003): 69-102.
18. “On Heffalumps and Heresies: Responses to Accusations Against Open Theism” Journal of Biblical Studies 2, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 1-44.
19. “Be Wary of Ware: A Reply to Bruce Ware” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (June 2002): 221-231.
20. “A Tale of Two Providences.” Ashland Theological Journal 33 (2001): 41-55.
21. “The Assurance of Things to Come” in Looking to the Future, ed. David Baker, (BakerBook House, 2001): 281-294.
22. “Does God know your Next Move?” with Chris Hall, cover story for Christianity Today, May 21, 2001, pp. 38-45 and June 7, 2001, pp. 50-56.
23. “Theological Lawbreaker?” Books and Culture (January, 2000) pp.10-11. Reprinted in Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Religion, Daniel Judd, ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2002).
24. “Why Simple Foreknowledge Offers No More Providential Control than the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy 14, no. 1 (Jan. 1997): 26-40. Also published in Kevin Timpe, ed., Arguing about Religion (Routledge, second edition, 2009): 362-373.
Jospeh Sabo, a frequent Open Theist commenter on various Open Theist Facebook groups, has started a new Open Theist friendly blog, highlighting notions of Christian Anarchism:
He highlights, in his first post, the disappointing in Yahweh upon seeing Israel reject Him in favor of a king:
We are often taught as Christians, that the political and social landscape described in the text of Judges 17 is one of immorality, and rebellion towards God. This most assuredly might be the case if one was to assume that there were no Israelites that sought after the will of the Lord, but to those that sought to keep the commands and recognized Yahweh as their King, how wonderful life must have been. It is important to understand that no king was given to rule over Israel until they rejected Yahweh as their King and asked for someone to rule over them “like all the nations”( 1 Samuel 8:5-6). This was exceedingly displeasing in the sight of Samuel, to the point where Yahweh sought to console him by assuring Samuel “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” In the mind of Yahweh, His children searching for someone to rule over them was tantamount to their rejection of His rule. To put it plainly; in Yahweh’s ideal, the system He set up for His children, there was to be no man ruling over them, only Himself.
As we have seen from the definition of “anarchy” given above, “without rulers” or, only Yahweh as King is initially how the children of Yahweh were intended to live. Yahweh even speaks through the prophet Samuel, and tells the people what will be the result of their seeking for a ruler over them like all the nations. See if you notice any parallels to our own times.
Open Theism is features on a list of 4 New Theological Ideas You Need To Know About. From the article:
WHAT IS IT?
Open Theism is a new contender in the long-running theological question of how human free will and God’s foreknowledge work together. Traditionally there have been two camps:
Calvinist theology says that God ordains all things according to his will, including those who will be saved. This view ultimately limits the scope of human free will, as God’s sovereign will has already determined every event and decision.
Arminian theology, on the other hand, holds that God desires for everyone to be saved, but that humans may freely resist his call to repentance. Humans have free will, but God still has divine foreknowledge of what will happen in the future.
Open Theism goes a significant step beyond Arminianism. It submits that human free will cannot be truly free if God always knows what the future holds. In love, God has bestowed free will on his creation. But in order to allow us true freedom to choose, God has purposely limited himself to not knowing everything about the future.
In most versions of Open Theism, natural causes will inevitably dictate much of the way the future plays out and God may supernaturally know some aspects of the future (which allows for prophecy in scripture). But the way humans exercise their free will could lead to different possible futures, and therefore the future is open, not closed.
The view feeds into a wider theology that creation is subject to a cosmic spiritual battle between Satan and his angels who rebelled against God, and those who are joined with Jesus in bringing God’s kingdom on earth. Although God will eventually win the war and the new creation will one day be established, the outcome of our daily ‘spiritual battles’ are not a foregone conclusion and depend on our part in the process.
Jack West shares on Facebook:
Jack West – I too have broken much ground with people that are resistant to the Gospel over God’s character as presented from a closed thinking rational. People ask me why I’m so obsessed with Open Theism and that my friend is the answer. I came from a background that was not fun! Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis come from the same type of background. For people that have lived normal lives raised by typical and functional families the whole “God is in control” gospel is great. But for those of us that endured terrible childhoods and very hard adult lives as well, it’s not so great! In fact it sort of makes us really angry with Him.
Years ago I had an itinerant ministry called “Mad at the Devil Ministries.” LOL it was a crazy name but it was the best way to describe the message I preached. It was born of a resentment I had with God. One I developed due to very well meaning Christians who kept telling me that “God put you through all of that to help you minister to people who have been through the same.”
I believed them but it made me really mad. I would wonder to myself. If He put me through all that just so I can minister to other people who have been through hard times why is He putting them through all that? Wouldn’t it make much more sense not to put any of us through hard times so that it wouldn’t take someone like us to reach us???
Then overtime I realized that God didn’t put me through any of that. God wasn’t trying to give me a testimony the devil was trying to steal my testimony! Thus my ministry was born.
From China and the Christian Impact, by Jacques Gernet:
If it is said that at that time [after the Fall], the Master of Heaven [Yahweh] would have liked to destroy [Adam] and [Eve] but was afraid that then there would be no human race, why did he not start all over again and create a man who was truly good, since he possesses the inexhaustible power to create men? And if it is said that he had not the heart to cut the evil short, by eliminating the guilty, because the evil was not yet very serious, how is it that he could leave things as they were, knowing full well that little streams turn into big rivers and that great fires begin with tiny sparks?
Nor can it be held that the Master of Heaven wished to test the man he had created by leaving him free to act in order to see whether he would resist the temptation of doing evil. Omniscient as he was, he must have known in advance that Adam and Eve would transgress his prohibitions. Knowing for certain that they would fall into sin, he simply set a trap for them. The thesis of free will is incompatible with the creator’s omniscience:
If it is said that he knew in advance from the moment man was created that he would surely commit a fault but that he allowed him to act as man himself decided. either for good or for evil, so as to decide whether he should be rewarded or punished, that is what is called ‘trapping people with a net`. How does that show him to be the master [of all beings]? So what do these words ‘omniscient’ and ‘omnipotent’ mean?
From Roger Olsen’s Walter Wink and Greg Boyd on the Problem of Evil:
Recently I’ve been re-reading my former colleague and friend Greg Boyd’s book Satan and the Problem of Evil. (It’s also a very big book! Why can’t people keep their books briefer? :) I was privileged to work alongside Greg for several years and I remember our many talks about the subjects he deals with in that book. (In fact, I take some credit for helping launch Greg’s career as a theologian; it was I who choose his application out of a stack of applications for an open position in theology and insisted that we interview him. I remember how he absolutely hit the ball out of the ballpark in his interviews. Needless to say, he was hired and became one of the college’s most popular teachers and an influential evangelical scholar.)
On the GodisOpen facebook page, a conversation is occurring over the resent history of the Open Theism movement. Some are concerned about the prominence of the philosophical wing of Open Theism, wondering who the Biblical Open Theist leaders are.
This chart may provide an answer (to the extent the chart is correct). Morrell, Enyart and Saia seem to be main the contenders, although not as prominent as the Philosophical Open Theists (Hasker, Boyd, Rice, Swinburne, and Oord).
Jack writes on Facebook:
I too have broken much ground with people that are resistant to the Gospel over God’s character as presented from a closed thinking rational. People ask me why I’m so obsessed with Open Theism and that my friend is the answer. I came from a background that was not fun! Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis come from the same type of background. For people that have lived normal lives raised by typical and functional families the whole “God is in control” gospel is great. But for those of us that endured terrible childhoods and very hard adult lives as well, it’s not so great! In fact it sort of makes us really angry with Him.
Years ago I had an itinerant ministry called “Mad at the Devil Ministries.” LOL it was a crazy name but it was the best way to describe the message I preached. It was born of a resentment I had with God. One I developed due to very well meaning Christians who kept telling me that “God put you through all of that to help you minister to people who have been through the same.”
I believed them but it made me really mad. I would wonder to myself. If He put me through all that just so I can minister to other people who have been through hard times why is He putting them through all that? Wouldn’t it make much more sense not to put any of us through hard times so that it wouldn’t take someone like us to reach us???
Then overtime I realized that God didn’t put me through any of that. God wasn’t trying to give me a testimony the devil was trying to steal my testimony! Thus my ministry was born.
Thomas Jay Oord’s book The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence is an excellent contribution to the contemporary conversation on this topic. As displayed in the book’s title, Oord offers a view of providence that is uniquely situated amidst an ongoing open and relational conversation about the God/world relationship. The Uncontrolling Love of God is poised to offer new possibilities for not only those immersed in open and relational conversations but also those outside this particular theological movement. Those for whom the problem of evil has been a point of contention (theist and atheist alike) could also benefit from the insights offered in this book.
But lest you think that The Uncontrolling Love of God is merely a theological and philosophical treatment of the problem of evil, let me assure you it is not. While Oord navigates the theological, philosophical and scientific disciplines with ease and precision, his book has an immensely practical aspect, as well.
Oord’s practicality is evident from the beginning of this book. From the very first page, he delves into the tragedy of the human experience, presenting real stories of people encountering unfathomable evil and suffering. For Oord, these stories serve as a catalyst for the theodicy question – if God is all-powerful and all-loving than why does evil, pain and suffering exist?
But while Oord is concerned with the practical, those who are seeking an academic conversation on the topic will not be disappointed. He explores the topics of providence and the problem of evil by taking seriously randomness, law-like regularities, free will, genuine evil and genuine moral goodness. As Oord states, “My overarching aim for this book is to offer the best way to believe God acts providentially in a world of regularities, randomness, freedom and necessity, good and evil” (81).
Oord’s proposal avoids being determined by more popular theological answers. He spends a substantial portion of his book sketching out various models of providence. On one end of the spectrum there is the view that God is an omnicausal agent, determining all events according to the divine will. On the other end, there is the view that God is removed and uninvolved, whose ways are wholly other. Oord charitably presents all the models, offering a helpful critique of each while creating the space for his mediating position, essential kenosis.
Essential kenosis offers an alternative way of thinking about issues pertaining to the problem of evil and providence by coloring outside the theological lines [tweetable :) ]. In a conversation where God is believed to be either self-limited by God’s own choice or by some external force, Oord argues for involuntary divine self-limitation which comes not from some outside force but from the core of the divine nature, which is essentially and fundamentally love.
While Oord’s essential kenosis theology paints a picture of a God who is limited in agency due to the primacy of love, God is also intimately and persuasively active in the world, luring creation moment-by-moment. While this is not the first time Oord has written about essential kenosis, this is his most thorough presentation to date. For those who are interested in reading his thoughts for the first time or are looking for deeper engagement with his theology, The Uncontrolling Love of God will undoubtedly be an important resource.
While one may argue that Oord’s proposal makes for a weak God that can achieve little if anything, he works hard to show that this is indeed not the case. In his chapter on providence and miracles, he spends considerable time showing that a non-coercive, non-interventionist God can still be an actor in the world. Miracles, divine agency that is surprising and unusual, special and good, do indeed happen. Oord goes a long way in showing that “[e]ssential kenosis explains how God can act miraculously without controlling others” (216).
Those who are searching for a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil may find The Uncontrolling Love of God a valuable resource. I am confident that this book will generate fruitful conversation. I am hopeful that Oord’s proposal will provided practical and hopeful possibility for those who are making sense of either their own experience with evil, pain and suffering or the experience of an other.
Oord’s new book is a book of many possibilities – the possibility of answering the problem of evil and the possibility of offering a satisfying explanation for why one can still believe in God, divine agency, and miracles, all while taking seriously contemporary scientific knowledge. And if one walks away unsatisfied, Oord’s proposal could at the very least provide opportunities to think more deeply about their own position and to ponder its potential. As I see it, if people can read The Uncontrolling Love of God with an open mind and an open heart, all this can be a real possibility.
Book available December 2015.
Followup video by Oord:
For believers, making sense of [evil events] requires belief in God. But the answers that most give to the question of God’s relation to randomness and evil leave me unconvinced and discontented. They don’t make sense. Believers need better responses than the usual fare.
– Thomas Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God
Thomas J Oord is understandably unimpressed with the standard answers to the problem of evil. Evil, it is said, is part of God’s plan. Evil is used by God to teach people. Evil is the result of sinful people and God does not interfere in order to preserve freedom. Christians give all sorts of complicated and incomplete answers to the answer of evil, but evil remains a powerful argument from those wishing to reject God. Former Calvinist Bart Ehrman, a popular scholar and critic of Christianity, cites evil as the main reason he left Christianity. If evil can convert hardcore Calvinists into atheism, then what chance do the rest of us have?
In his first chapter, Oord details three such true stories of heartbreak, suffering, and random happenstance. I will add to it my own:
A day after my 31st birthday, we received a call about my six year old son. We had been trying to diagnose a lump on his neck. The doctors were not certain what it was, but on this day they were informing us about the results of a biopsy. It was cancer: T-Cell leukemia. For the next 6 months we spent week after endless week in the hospital. This six year old was poked and prodded. He lost his hair. They installed a port on his chest and in his stomach. They pumped endless toxins into his spinal column. Although he finally was placed in the medium risk category and fell into remission, his newfound friends at the hospital were not as lucky.
One child, struggling to stay alive, is now given a 20% chance of survival. This strong kid fights day and night, braving horrendous radiation treatments. He desperately clings to life against the odds. Although his odds of survival are slipping, he presses to do anything to live. Often these children die in spite of their pleas for life.
I lay awake at night in the children’s ward listening to the cries from adjacent rooms. The sound is maddening. Children are suffering through no fault of their own, day and night. Some are too young to comprehend what is happening. And this is a first world country. In other places and in other times, there was not medicine to dull the pain. There was no surgery to fix a broken body. There was no hope. Child mortality, until the modern world, hovered at about 50%.
Evil is real and critics of Christianity cannot just be easily dismissed with platitudes on this front. Where was God in all of this? Was this some sort of plan by God to teach some lesson?
Is the “lesson” they learned in death worth the evil they suffered? Can dead people mature?
Some evils are character destroying rather than character building. Many people have lives that are made far worse because of intense pain. They grow bitter, vengeful and tyrannical, making life hellish for others and themselves. The alleged divine strategy of improving personal character is often counterproductive.
Oord spends the first few chapters talking about randomness. He very well understands that events can be random but aggregates can be predictable. He also spends an appropriate amount of time dispelling the myth that any limitations on choice is a violation of free will. He states the most intuitive position on the matter: “The limited-but-genuine-freedom position says we freely choose among a limited number of options.”
This is what human beings experience. We cannot choose to jump to the moon, but most can choose to jump two feet into the air as opposed to one foot into the air. We choose what position to hold our arms during the jump or whether to allow physics to control their placement. Although our jump is limited by the extent of our strength, I would add that humans have available an infinite number of choices within set limitations. Even with limits, human beings have limitless options.
Oord starts with the common sense notion that whatever we experience should be our default understanding as to how the world works. If our daily experience is free choice (e.g. I choose between a Coke or some Lemonade to drink) then this should be our default metaphysical position. Fatalism should only be accepted if there is strong evidence to overcome our intuition (and claiming “intuition” is a result of fatalism is of no help to anyone). Oord acknowledges that the fatalists will always claim that there are underlying formulas influencing everything that happens (despite evidence of randomness on a subatomic level). If someone is devoted to fatalism, they can always claim that fatalism produces an appearance of randomness. How this is more rational than defaulting to randomness creating an appearance of randomness is anyone’s guess.
On top of this basis, Oord presents a model of providence in which God’s natural attributes inherently limit the extent of God’s abilities. This should be a very familiar concept to anyone familiar with the metaphysics proposed by most modern Christians. Proponents of “omniscience and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His knowledge (e.g. forget events or not see events happen). Proponents of “omnipresence and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His location. Proponents of “omnipotence and immutability” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability of God to change. Even schools of Open Theism limit omniscience to what can rationally be known. Because Negative Attributes are inherently contradictory, something has to give. To Oord, what gives is God’s ability to be coercive (God’s benevolence limits God’s omnipotence).
This proffered metaphysical model, admittedly, is of better fit than most current models although it shares with these other models the reimagining of ancient Jewish theology. In both Reformed metaphysics and in Oord’s metaphysics are God’s thoughts and actions stripped from the Biblical narrative (such as God’s destruction of the Earth to undo His regretted creation, or God’s laments that He has punished Israel continuously in vain). In this respect, Oord is similar to the Calvinist tradition. In other respects, Oord is superior to the Calvinist tradition (by not stripping God of His emotions, relational nature, and love). In both Oord’s metaphysics and Calvinism, God is powerless to stop evil (so there is not a power disparity). For this reason, I would classify Oord as more Theologically Biblical than even a Fundamentalist Calvinist. Both rework the Bible’s picture of God, Oord to a lesser extent.
Oord offers a metaphysics of “essential kenosis”. The idea is that God gives Himself into creation. Because the world is an extension of God’s love, God cannot unilaterally change creation. This would be God changing His own nature, which Oord says is impossible. Evil exists because God cannot stop it. But God can bilaterally change creation (differentiating Oord from Process Theology). This is Oord’s solution to a benevolent God coexisting with an evil world. Oord explains this more thoroughly than a review can do justice.
The book is engaging to read. There are insights on just about every front (from statistics to science to theology). The sources that are cited come from a wide variety of traditions. The flow of the text is, for the most part, smooth. The points are interwoven to make the most of their effect on the audience. Anyone interested in benevolence (or even Christological metaphysics) would do well to pick up this book.
If a reader is looking for a book on Biblical critical scholarship, this is probably not the book for them. If, instead, a reader is interested in a compelling and fair overview of a host of metaphysical models (proffering what it believes is the best metaphysical model which can be then applied to the Bible), this is a book they should not miss.
Followup video by Oord:
From a 2004 article called The ‘Openness of God’ and the Future of Evangelical Theology:
Sadly, evangelicals are now debating the central doctrine of Christian theism. The question is whether evangelicals will affirm and worship the sovereign and purposeful God of the Bible, or shift their allegiance to the limited God of the modern mega-shift.
At stake is not only the future of the Evangelical Theological Society, but of evangelical theology itself. Regardless of how the votes go in Atlanta, this issue is likely to remain on the front burner of evangelical attention for years to come.
The debate over open theism is another reminder that theology is too important to be left to the theologians. Open theism must be a matter of concern for the whole church. This much is certain–God is not waiting to see how this vote turns out.
This time-line of Lequyer was written by Donald W. Viney, published in his translation of Lequyer’s “The Hornbeam Leaf” (Pittsburg, Kansas: Logos-Sophia Press, 2010):
This chronology builds on that of Jean Grenier, found in his version of Lequyer’s Œuvres complètes, p. xv.
1814: Birth of Joseph-Louis-Jules Lequyer on January 29th at Quintin (in Brittany). His father was Joseph-Jean-Noel Lequyer (1779-1837) and his mother was Céleste-Reine-Marie-Eusèbe Digaultray (1772-1844).
1834: Entrance to the École Polytechnique in Paris; Lequyer meets Charles Renouvier (1815-1903) at this school; Lequyer’s father officially fixes the spelling of the family name as “Lequyer.”
1837: Death of Lequyer’s father (1838 according to Séailles; Dugas says 1839).
1838: After failing the military exam to become a lieutenant and refusing a lesser military post, Lequyer resigns from the École Polytechnique.
1839: Settles at Plérin (Brittany), near St.-Brieuc.
1843: Settles in Paris and teaches French composition at the École Égyptienne; Lequyer translates into French the autobiography of Sir Humphrey Davy, but never publishes it.
1844: Death of Lequyer’s mother; she says to their devoted servant, Marianne Feuillet, “Oh, Marianne, pray, look out for my poor Jules. He has in his heart a passion which, I greatly fear, will be the death of him.”
1846: Mystical crisis; Lequyer wrote to Mgr. Épivent, “God spoke to me . . .”
1848: Return to Plérin and candidacy to the North Coast Assembly; he was not elected.
1850: Sells the family house at St.-Brieuc.
1851: February 28th, mental crisis where Lequyer tried to cut his arm off with a hatchet; confinement at Dinan; at Passy, April 11-19, under care of Dr. Esprit Blanche. After recovering, Lequyer proposes to Anne “Nanine” Deszille (1818-1909), a friend from childhood. She declines.
1853: Teaches mathematics at Besançon and at Lons-le-Saulnier.
1855: Return to Plérin, settles in the countryside in the family home, “Plermont” (Plérin + mont).
1860: Unsuccessful candidacy for the archivist’s position of the Côtes-du-Nord.
1861: Late December, Lequyer again proposes to Mlle. Deszille. She gives a definitive refusal.
1862: February 11th, death by drowning in the bay of St.-Brieuc. Louis Le Hesnan, the philosopher’s secretary who accompanied him reports that Lequyer’s last words were, “Adieu Nanine.” According to Louis Prat, one of his friends, Lequyer made a supreme wager in which he was asking God to save his genius.
1865: Renouvier underwrote 120 copies of a selection of Lequyer’s manuscripts under the title La Recherche d’une première vérité, fragments posthumes
1868: Renouvier and Agathe Lando erect a monument with a statue on top of it over Lequyer’s grave in Plérin. The inscription reads: This monument was raised to the memory of an unhappy friend and a man of great genius in 1868 by Renouvier. Jules Lequyer, born at Quintin in 1814. Deceased at Plérin in 1862. Pray for him. His works: “The Hornbeam Leaf,” Abel and Abel, The Search for a First Truth, The Dialogue of the Predestinate and the Reprobate.
1872 William James writes to Renouvier to request a copy of Renouvier’s edition of Lequyer’s works; Renouvier obliges and, after reading the book, James donates the copy to the Harvard library. James never mentions Lequyer by name in his published work, although he quotes him and alludes to him as “a French philosopher of genius” in The Principles of Psychology (1890).
1880s In the mid-1880s, the historian Proper Hémon happens upon Lequyer’s grave in Plérin and begins writing the philosopher’s biography. This is not published until 1991.
1898 George Séailles publishes “Une Philosophe Inconnu, Jules Lequier” [An unknown philosopher, Jules Lequier], in Revue Philosophique de la France et de L’Étranger. Tome XLV (1898), pp. 120-150. The article was summarized the same year by someone with the initials “E.A.” in The Philosophical Review vol. 7, n. 5 (1898), pp. 537-538.
1924 Publication of Ludovic Dugas’s edition of Renouvier’s collection of Lequyer’s writings, La Recherche d’une première vérité (Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1924). Dugas used Hémon’s research in his introduction to the work, “La Vie, L’Œuvre et le Génie de Lequier” [The life, work, and genius of Lequier], pp. 3-52. L. J. Russell reviewed the book for Mind, vol. 36, n. 144 (1927), pp. 512-514.
1936 Jean Grenier publishes his thesis, La Philosophie de Jules Lequier (Paris: Société d’éditions “Les Belles Lettres,” publications de la Faculté des Lettres d’Alger, IIIème Série, Tome X, 1936). In the same year Grenier published excerpts of Lequyer’s writing not included in the editions of Renouvier and Dugas, La Liberté [Freedom] (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1936). Harold A. Larrabee reviewed the two books for The Journal of Philosophy, vol. 34, n. 10 (May 13, 1937), pp. 269-270.
1944 Jean-Paul Sartre uses Lequyer’s phrase, “to make, and in making, to make oneself” as a summary of his existentialism but, like James, does not mention Lequyer by name. See Les écrits de Sartre, établie par Michel Contat et Michel Rybalka (Paris: Gaillimard, 1970), p. 655.
1948 Jean Wahl publishes a selection of Lequyer’s writing, Jules Lequier 1814-1862 (Genève et Paris: Édition des Trois Collines, 1948) which includes a lengthy introduction, pp. 9-117. In the same year, Charles Hartshorne lectures in Paris and Wahl introduces him to Lequyer’s work.
1952 Jules Lequier, Œuvres complètes [Complete Works], edited by Jean Grenier (Neuchâtel, Suisse: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1953).
1953 Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese include an excerpt of Lequyer’s writing in their anthology, Philosophers Speak of God (Chicago University Press, 1953), pp. 227-230.
1974 Hartshorne’s student at Emory University, Harvey Brimmer, publishes a translation and brief commentary on Lequyer’s “The Hornbeam Leaf,” Philosophy in Context, vol. 3 (1974), pp. 94-100.
1975 Brimmer finishes his dissertation, Jules Lequier and Process Philosophy at Emory which includes appendices with translations of Lequyer’s The Problem of Knowledge and Probus or the Principle of Knowledge, which are the first two parts of Renouvier’s edition. Neither the dissertation nor the translations (with the exception of “The Hornbeam Leaf”) were published.
1991 Jules Lequier, Abel et Abel suivi d’une Notice Biographique de Jules Lequier. Texte établie et présenté par Gérard Pyguillem (Combas: Éditions de l’Éclat, 1991). This is the first time Prosper Hémon’s “Notice Biographique de Jules Lequyer” was published, pp. 109-235.
1993 Publication of André Clair’s edition of Renouvier’s collection of Lequyer’s writings, La Recherche d’une première vérité et autres textes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1993).
1998 Translation of Works of Jules Lequyer: The Hornbeam Leaf, The Dialogue of the Predestinate and the Reprobate, Eugene and Theophilus. Translated by Donald W. Viney. Foreword by Robert Kane. Lewiston (New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1998).
1999 Jules Lequyer’s Abel and Abel followed by Incidents in the Life and Death of Jules Lequyer. Foreword by William L. Reese. Translation by Mark West; biography by Donald W. Viney. (Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999). This book is modeled on that the edition of Pyguillem in 1991.
2010 Publication of the first number of the Cahiers Jules Lequier [Jules Lequier Notebooks] with Goulven Le Brech as editor-in-chief. The Cahiers, published annually by Les amis de Jules Lequier [Friends of Jules Lequier], includes articles on Lequyer and difficult to obtain material from archives, as well as book reviews and a review of the literature concerning Lequyer.
2014 International Colloquium on Jules Lequier, celebrating the bicentennial of the philosopher’s birth, held at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, September 30, 2014.
From Hope’s Reason:
I would not consider myself to be an open theist. But the question is: Is open theism a heresy? As I said, I know Clark Pinnock and I deeply respect him, not just intellectually but as a Christian. He has a passionate love for Christ and I believe that he is serving the Lord with all his strength. I can disagree with Clark on certain issues but I can not deny his love for Christ. To me, heresies are most often defined by an inadequate Christology, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief of Jesus as the archangel Michael. I have seen no evidence of any heretical tendencies in their Christology. I continue to be skeptical about open theism, but I am not able label them as a heretical movement. They are Christian brothers and sisters that I have some disagreement with in theology.
Quoted by Brian Abasciano. Originally from Douglas Stuart Old Testament Exegesis: A Primer for Students and Pastors (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 4th ed., 2009)
All the modern translations (and all the ancient ones for that matter) have been produced either by committees working against time deadlines or by individuals who cannot possibly know the whole Bible so well in the original that they produce flawless renderings at every point. Moreover, in the modern business of Bible publishing, the more “different” a translation is, the more risk there is that it will not sell. Thus there is a pressure on translators, committees, publisher’s, and others responsible to keep renderings conservative in meaning, even though, happily, usually up-to-date in idiomatic language. Finally, most people hate to go out on a limb with a translation in print. Many translation problems are matters of ambiguity: there is more than one way to construe the original. But space limitations do not permit translators to offer an explanation every time they might wish to render something from the original in a truly new way. So they almost always err on the side of caution. As a result, all modern translations tend, albeit with perfectly good intentions, to be overly “safe” and traditional. In the working of a translation committee, the lone genius is usually outvoted by the cautious majority.
Therefore, every so often you might actually produce a better translation than others have done, because you can invest much more time exegeting your passage than the individuals or committees were able to afford because of the speed at which they were required to work.
From Brian Abasciano: “A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48″
One of White’s main tactics was to pepper his comments with ridicule and expressions of shocked incredulity. Moreover, he called my motives into question, accusing me of both abusing scholarly information to hide not having a positive case and political salesmanship. And he charged me with exhibiting the heresy of Pelagianism. White’s response was simply not respectful or charitable dialogue as befitting scholarly discussion or exchange with a brother in Christ (and I regard White as brother in Christ). My plan here is to largely leave aside the ridicule and accusations in his response and to respond to anything he did say that had some substance to it. But I would urge anyone who watches his response to be alert to how often he makes disparaging comments in place of substantive arguments.
From an Open Theist Facebook group:
Question: Has anybody been able to study with someone who believes in comprehensive divine foreknowledge and successfully persuaded that person of the folly of the view? or, have you ever been able to study with someone and that person, while not being convinced, at least accepts your view as valid without characterizing it as somehow “limiting God?”
Alan Rhoda responds:
Alan Rhoda When we were dating I managed to persuade my initially skeptical wife of open theism. Her family’s another matter, though. They avoid talking about the issue with me.
Perhaps what would be useful is an intellegencesquared debate.
From the comments section of a recent blog post:
I can’t help but mention, as an example of what you describe, the furor over “open theism” among conservative evangelicals especially in the 1990s on the heels of the publication of The Openness of God book. Many of the reactions I heard and read clearly revealed lack of knowledge of open theism. Many “scholars” reacted to it without first actually reading any open theist writings. The same popped up in the furor leading up to the publication of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.” I blogged about that here. People who consider themselves scholars and who would like others to consider them scholars reacted to the book before it was even published. The problem is that within conservative evangelical circles people get credit for exposing a “heresy” even if they totally misrepresent it and cut it down as straw person (I’m using inclusive language there).
The lyrics of Once in a Lifetime, by Wolfsheim, reveal a deap bitterness towards God. TV Tropes claims this song is about “the loss of the singer’s wife and unborn child in a hurricane.” This would make sense and would not be outside the realm of human experience. The lyrics read:
No rain can wash away my tears
No wind can soothe my pain
You made me doubt, you made me fear
But now I’m not the same
You took my wife, my unborn son
Torn into the deep of the ocean
I don’t pretend that I love you
‘Cause there is nothing left to loose
In an article entitled How Do You Fire Thomas Jay Oord, the author speculates that Oord was fired from his post at Northwest Nazarene University for general disputes with the president David Alexander. In an email to Oord, Alexander listed the reason as “budget cuts”. The article wonders how budget cuts would justify firing someone bringing in more money to the university than they are being paid. If Thomas J Oord was bringing in more money than he was being paid then Alexander is indeed being disingenuous.
The creator of VeggieTales has produced a video series What’s in the Bible, which includes many Open Theist friendly themes. Recommended for all ages. The full series is available on Amazon.
There is a list circulating which lists authors whom were removed from LifeWay Christian Resources’ bookshelves. Among them are popular Open Theists:
Possible Open Theist Rachel Held Evens is also on the list.
Authors not on the list and availible in their store include:
Does the Open View Undermine Inerrancy?
Ware is convinced that the open view of the future “makes it impossible to affirm Scripture’s inerrancy unequivocally…” This is an important point since the move to exclude open theists from the Evangelical Theological Society was originally rooted in the claim that our position is inconsistent with the Society’s affirmation of faith in biblical inerrancy. The basis for Ware’s allegation is that open theists cannot affirm the truth of “inviolable divine predictions that involve future free human decisions and actions….” Two things may be said in response.
First, since God has revealed that he reserves the right to alter his plans, even after he’s decreed them (Jer. 18:6–10), and since Scripture offers us numerous illustrations of God doing just this, even after he’s made what seemed to be “inviolable” pronouncements, one wonders how Ware acquired the inerrant insight into what exactly is and is not an “inviolable” prophecy. I say his insight must be “inerrant,” for unless it is so, Ware is not in a position to denounce open theists for denying inerrancy on the grounds that we deny the inviolability of a decree Ware decrees is inviolable.
Second, since open theists hold that God is able to unilaterally settle as much of the future ahead of time as he desires, there is nothing in principle preventing us from affirming any specific decree of God, even if we were to agree that the decree is inviolable. For example, most open theists agree with those New Testament scholars who argue that many, if not most, of the specific “fulfillments” cited in the New Testament are illustrative in nature, not predictive. But even if were inclined to accept that the Old Testament predicted (say) that Jesus’ clothes had to be divided, that Jesus had to be betrayed, and that Jesus had to be given vinegar for water (but not poison for food, as the first half of the sentence in Ps. 69:21 “predicts”?), there’s absolutely nothing in our position that would prevent us from doing so. Nor is there any reason why God couldn’t decree ahead of time that a certain man would have a certain name and carry out a certain deed (as with Josiah and Cyrus). Our view simply holds that God leaves open whatever aspects of the future he sovereignly chooses to leave open. Hence, the argument that open theism somehow undermines inerrancy is without merit.
From Facebook group Open Theists:
What denominations are accepting of Open Theists? Is there a list someone could direct me towards? Almighty google has disappointed me thus far.
The running list:
(1) Assemblies of God
(4) Free Will Baptists
(5) Salvation Army
(8) Grace Believers
(9) Some baptists
(10) Some independents
(11) United Methodist Church
(12) United Church of Christ
(13) Free Methodists
(14) Church of God
(15) Evangelical Covenant Church
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.
The former Vice president unloads a lot in this portion theologically speaking. Off top he obviously felt that the subordination of the White man was wrong yet the suppression of the Negro was natural or normal. He employs strong Reformed theological language. In his understanding all that has took place was “the ordination of Providence”. Providence was another means of saying the “Creator” or God. As mentioned earlier in Reformed thought God is sovereignly in control of every aspect of the physical and immaterial planes of existence. No one can do a single thing on their own, every action is God. Alexander Hamilton Stephens also appeals to a popular misinterpretation of a biblical passage to justify his White Supremacist rhetoric. To top it off he even applies a text reserved for Jesus to their racist government as if to solidify the fact that their actions was the will of God.
From Phil Vischer’s blog:
My friend Skye warned me when I said I was engaging with some online atheists. “Are you SURE you want to go there?!?” I believe is what he said. Not that he felt I would lose my faith or anything. But, having spent a few college years debating with atheists, he already knew that those who engage in this peculiar sport are typically more interested in victory than truth. Which, means, above all else, yield no ground. Show no weakness. No possible signs of uncertainty regarding one’s premises. No openness to altering one’s position.
And as unappealing as this attitude might be in an atheist, it is infinitely MORE unappealing in a follower of Christ.
From a Facebook post:
I’ve experienced a lot of thoughts and feelings in the last few months, but anger at God has not been one of them. I do not believe God makes everything that happens, happen.. we have free-will and much of what happens around us is things unfolding, naturally. I do, however, believe that God can and does change things; He hears and responds to prayer which is why prayer is the best thing we can ask for and the best thing you can do for us (James 4:2-3 “You do not have because you do not ask God”).
I find the book of Job interesting and inspirational.. a story where Job loses everything but still praises God, and from reading the story, I gather that is what God wants us to do (though we are in a relationship and when you are in a relationship it can be normal to experience highs and lows.. I don’t think it’s ideal to be angry at God or question Him, but it happens and I’m not trying to make anyone who has been there feel bad or anything :) – I’ve been there) I know when I was younger I thought being angry at God was an effective means of getting Him to listen.. learning the story of Job taught me that God doesn’t want us to do that and He wants us to praise and trust Him and that is more impactful to Him than anger.. this doesn’t mean I will never struggle with this, but it has kept me strong and these are just my thoughts of the day :) we are still going strong in our faith.. we are grateful and more at His mercy than ever.
Caleb’s Carringbridge site.
From a Reddit Question and Answer with Greg Boyd:
Hey Greg Boyd! Love your work!
In what ways do the early church fathers influence your theology? Do you have particular church fathers you read that help you?
Also, I host a podcast from Theologues.com. Would you be willing to come on?
GREAT question! I love the theology of pre-Constantinian fathers. They SO got cosmic spiritual warfare and how it affects this earth. And they ALL emphasized free will. Irenaeus used to be my favorite, but over the last view years I’ve been into Origen. My approach to violent portraits of God in the OT has been influenced by him.
Theological Overload is a new Open Theist blog written by the administrator of the Facebook group Christian Free Thinkers.
An extract from the first post:
This is the key to understanding open theism: that the past present and future do not co-exist, but are ordered sequentially and in linear form. The past no longer exists, the future does not yet exist, and all that exists is the present (which a nanosecond ago was the future and a nanosecond later is the past). Once that is understood, biblical prophecy can be seen for what it is – the revelation of God’s own determined plans for the future. God can declare the end from the beginning because it is HIS plan, for example. Open theism explains the countless incidences in scripture where God changes his mind or learns new things without resorting to anthropomorphism or anthopopaphism, both of which remove any concept of God, in whose image we are made, truly communicating with mankind.
From time to time individuals request a consolidated list of basic reading on the subject of Open Theism. This post sets out to build a basic reading list for Biblical Open Theism (contrasted with Philosophical Open Theism) for the neophyte.
1. Roger Olson explains how Open Theism has not been fairly represented by the critics. Instead, the critics wage a dishonest smear campaign. [link]
2. Macinnis relates her shock at blatant prooftexting of 1 Samuel 15 by a critic of Open Theism [link]
3. Apologetic Jedi lists 95 Open Theism verses in the tradition of Martin Luther’s 95 theses. [link]
4. A definition of Open Theism and an overview of the current ideological spectrum of Open Theism. [link]
5. A thorough examination of Exodus 32 and how future Biblical authors understood the text. [link]
6. A full text of Bob Enyart’s opening statement to James White during a debate on Open Theism [link]
Two important books
Did God Know, by H Roy Elseth [link]
Does God Know the Future, by Michael Saia [link]
Part of my reoccurring work is on exposing intellectual dishonesty. There are several signs of intellectual dishonesty: Refusal to debate. Refusal to make monetary bets. Refusal to answer simple questions. On Facebook, there are two universal telltale signs of intellectual dishonesty: deleting comments and threads. If a belief cannot be transparently questioned, if critics must be censored, then the advocate is intellectually dishonest.
This week, Alpha and Omega Ministries censored Bob Enyart when Enyart replied on their Facebook page to an article that James White wrote against Bob Enyart. If that censorship does not show the rampant intellectual dishonesty of James White and Alpha and Omega Ministries, then I will present my own exhibit. I was censored and banned for asking questions. The intellectual dishonesty is apparent on several levels. Straightforward questions are ignored and instead were censored.
The entire Facebook exchange between me and the A&O Facebook admin, Richard C Pierce, is available for all to read. It should be noted that I make zero theological arguments the entire “debate”. I take no stances and advocate no views. Instead, I ask questions. Questions are a chance for individuals to explain what they believe, to clarify. Instead, Pierce, hyper-reacts. He becomes belligerent. It is obvious he is afraid of the question. This is not unlike White’s handing of the question and answer period during the White Enyart debate. White and company are very afraid of questions. Their beliefs do not hold up to simple scrutiny. Pierce then bans me. I do get to, in the end, point out the intellectual dishonesty of A&O Ministries, which is very apparent by Pierce’s refusal to answer questions and his belligerence towards those asking questions.
Part of the exchange is obscured because I didn’t expand some comments before the copy/paste. Pierce can release the rest of those comments if he can be prevailed upon to do so. All the relevant parts are still intact:
Richard C Pierce ROFLing
I removed Bob and Will’s posting privileges because I got tired of their ignoring James and my responses. Unfortunately, when you do that on this kind of FB page FB ‘hides’ all posts from those individuals. This is certainly not my favorite f…See More
Richard C Pierce Chris Fisher my only other option here is that if I were to receive assurances that Bob and Will can behave themselves from here on, I would lift the block. Without that assurance, I will keep it in place for the near future.
As for Bob Enyart’s blog…See More
Chris Fisher Personally, I would like to see what the answer is to Duffy’s question:
Is Jesus the second person of the trinity?…See More
Richard C Pierce Chris Fisher How many times would you like to see it answered? James answered in this very post. The answer is yes, has always been yes and has not been anything other than yes. Perhaps you need to ask again to see if it changed?
Chris Fisher So, if Jesus is the second person of the trinity and Jesus took on human nature, then isn’t that God changing? God is going from God+Jesus (no human nature)+Holy Spirit to God+Jesus (with human nature)+Holy Spirit?
Richard C Pierce No, but again, Dr. White explained this, so why are you acting like he hasn’t? This whole ‘playing dumb’ act from your group is getting very tiring.
Chris Fisher No seriously. No one understands it. Explain how God can incorporate human nature and yet not change.
Rachel Troyer So… the second person of the trinity has a divine nature and a human nature, but before the incarnation did not have a human nature… right?
Isn’t this what James White believes?
Richard C Pierce Jesus is ‘fully’ God and ‘fully’ man. This is called the hypostatic union. The natures are not a ‘mixture’ therefore God is not changed. But of course, Bob Enyart knows that is what we believe. He is ignoring that in order to prop up his straw man – false case.
Richard C Pierce I am sure that I could find something in Bob’s teachings that I could twist into something that he doesn’t actually believe and then play dumb while repeatedly poking at him about it and then acting like he can’t respond. Such is not honest communication.
Chris Fisher Here is where I think our communication breakdown may be happening: was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God?
Richard C Pierce Sigh. Again, the playing dumb act isn’t flying anymore. I just stated that there is no ‘mixture.’ This entire line is a straw man designed to tie up and waste time. The real problem here isn’t communication, it is that you don’t like the answer. Well, it is what it is so get honest with it. If you want to disagree with what we ‘really’ believe then do so. Otherwise, enough with the straw man argument.
Richard C Pierce All: Before you decide to chime in for some more ‘ring around the straw man rosey’ I suggest you read the rules for this page.
Rachel Troyer “Jesus is ‘fully’ God and ‘fully’ man. This is called the hypostatic union. The natures are not a ‘mixture’ therefore God is not changed”
So, I totally agree that Jesus is fully God and fully man.
But, the second person of the trinity (Jesus/Son of G…See More
Rachel Troyer I read the rules and I listened to the posts but it’s still confusing… James is trying to say that there is no change with God because God can not change in any way. So, he is saying that the incarnation was NOT a change… right?
Rachel Troyer Richard, I think it is purely communication. I don’t think it’s a “straw man” argument. It seems to me that everyone thinks the same thing but some refer to it as a change and some don’t.
the Word became flesh, so at one point it wasn’t flesh and at another point it was flesh… right?
Chris Fisher It is a yes or no question. There is no “playing dumb” on my part. Either your view is comprehensible or it isn’t. You should be able to explain it if it is. Instead of typing two or three letters you chose for a paragraph ignoring the question:
Was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God? …See More
Richard C Pierce I am sorry that you are both so confused. Somehow, generations have been able to understand this for 2000 years. Perhaps someone has bewitched you?
Chris Fisher Was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God?
by Matt Slick
Chris Fisher Sir, do you believe that answers my question? If so, copy and paste the sentence that explains if Jesus’ human nature was fully God. It feels to me that Slick and White avoid simple questions and defer to distractions that do not answer critical questions. Intellectual honesty calls for transparent answers to direct questions.
Arlin Edmondson “Was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God?”
What is incomprehensible is your question, Chris….See More
Chris Fisher It seams to me that you want to say “no”. So I will help you out. You can copy and paste this sentence: ” The part of Jesus’ nature that was human is not God. ”
Rachel Troyer Richard,
The Word became flesh. At one point the Word (God- the second person of the trinity) was not in the flesh and now the Word (God-the second person of the trinity) is in the flesh. For 2000 years+ Christians have professed Christ as dying and…See More
Richard C Pierce Guys, argue all of the little conundrums that you want. Your argument is not with me, James White, Matt Slick or a host of others. It is with scripture. You can repeat your case all that you want, you are denying the direct teaching of scripture.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Chris Fisher It is a yes or no question. I am not arguing anything. I have never seen someone so afraid of answering questions:
Was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God?
Micah Burke > Was the part of Jesus with human nature fully God?
This shows a startling lack of understanding of the hypostatic union.
Chris Fisher Micah, yes or no. From what I gather is that you and Richard would say “no”, and then talk about the hypostatic union. But you are too afraid to write out your beliefs.
Chris Fisher The fact that you will not say “yes” suggests you do not believe “yes”. You do not believe Jesus’ human side was divine. But you also do not want to say ” no” because you understand how heretical that would look. My conclusion is that you both are intellectually dishonest.
Rachel Troyer Micah, was there a point before the hypostatic union where Jesus was not the God-man?
From Gotquestions.org it says,
“Jesus always had been God (John 8:58,10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man.”
This is similar to John Piper’s article on the hypostatic union.
“AT the incarnation, Jesus became a human being
Word became flesh”
So, my question is simple, before the incarnation, was Jesus a human being? was there a human nature along with the divine nature? or did this “addition” become so at the incarnation?
If so, then this is a change in God… right? Because Jesus is fully God… always was and is and will be… but wasn’t always human… right?
Bible Questions Answered by GotQuestions.org! Fast and accurate answers to all your Bible…
Update: posts are reinstated as of 1/26/2015
The following was deleted from Alpha and Omega Ministries. Bob Enyart and Will Duffy had quickly responded to White’s criticism of Enyart. White and his ministry did not want Enyart’s side to be heard and removed it from their Facebook page (update: both Enyart and Duffy were also blocked). This is all in response to White’s backtracking and disingenuous handling of the Enyart White Open Theism debate aftermath:
Response posted by Alpha and Omega Ministries (1/25/2015). The reader can decide if Enyart’s and Duffy’s posts were inappropriate:
From Thomas J Oord’s latest post, The Future of Open Theology:
I think the future of open theology will be largely shaped by those at the grass roots. General features of open theology resonate deeply with laity and pastors. The conversations occurring on the internet and in local churches give me great hope that open theology will continue spread. We must continue to ponder how we might foster, support, and encourage this aspect of open theology.
A few year ago, I joined Tom Belt and TC Moore to host the first Open Theology for the Church conference at Gregory Boyd’s church outside Minneapolis. The eagerness of those attending was palpable, as they expressed their renewed sense of passion for God and Christian living. I hope similar events will be held in the future.
As I think about the future of Open theology, I’m also drawn to reflect on its relationship with Process theology. I’ll focus an entire blog to my thoughts on that relationship in the future.
A letter by Bird Weaver (Morgantown, KY) to the Messenger (GB) 4-5-1889:
We see in Gen. 6:5 “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually.” Does it not occur to your mind dear readers, that if God had foreknew all this as well before the foundation of the world as He did at the time He looked down and discovered man’s wickedness, that He had been all of time and all of eternity grieving at heart, and repenting not that He had already made man, but away down at the dawn of time He would make man, and he would sin, and He would then punish him…
…If God be God, serve him; if Baal, serve him. Man may get up a very beautiful story concerning the foreknowledge of God, and hemay please the ear with his theory, but undoubtedly it is best for us to preach what we know; that God’s word helps us to understand and reveals to us.
Rod Thomas shares his own personal journey to Open Theism:
When I left Calvinism, it was not any of my Arminian, liberal, or emerging church friends who convinced me to eventually leave Calvinist theology. It was one of the Five Point Hardliners who sent me a 20 page paper (I kid you not) via a Facebook message explaining to me why I was not a REAL Calvinist (and therefore not a real Christian) since I didn’t affirm ALL FIVE POINTS. I was so angry, I first started re-reading the Bible without Calvinist interpretation, learning historical contexts for things like the story of Jacob and Esau. It was around that time I transitioned to identifying as an outspoken Trinitarian and Open Theist.
When I first learned of Open Theism, I was unimpressed. In Baptist Theology class, the teacher abused his authority, using polemics and demonization to demonstrate his fauxgressive take on Open Theism. He would regularly cite C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle and the story of the servant of Tash. Not. Impressed. It’s not as if the Tash story doesn’t have problems, like Orientalism, which is one of the three stools of White Supremacy’s throne. Plus, C.S. Lewis does not equal the Christian Canon or Tradition. So there was that too.
It took a combination of prayerful reflection on the Scriptures, familiarizing myself with continental philosophy, as well as forging friendships with people like T.C. Moore to help me grow as an Open Theist. What other theology dared begin with Jesus’ call to repentance as the start of theological introspection? Whose the politician outside George W. Bush that actually made Jesus the number one philosopher? Much like John Howard Yoder [whose silence and embodiment of male supremacy is problematic] who is said to have brought back Jesus’ teachings as central to Christian ethics, Open theists made free will theology anew, grounded in Jesus, contemporary hermeneutics and traditional evangelical theology such as God’s triunity and the trustworthiness of Scripture. At Brite Divinity School, I could have followed suit with everyone else and hopped on the process theology bandwagon, but I chose not to.
From Reality is Not Optional:
The Bible does not hold this fatalistic approach to marriage:
Paul gives widows the liberty to remarriage whomever “she wishes” (1 Cor 7:39). Paul advises people not to marry at all (1Co 7:8). Jesus is confronted by a scenario where seven brothers married the same lady (Luk 20:29). This handing down of wives to surviving brothers was ubiquitous in the Jewish culture. Jesus allows divorce (Mat 5:32), and Paul allows divorce (1Co 7:15). And Paul also warns Christians not to marry unbelievers (2Co 6:14). In each of these cases, fatalism is not assumed into the text although this would have been the perfect place to add “by the way, God has your special person chosen for you”. The Bible treats marriage as open, where any number of people could be sufficient for a spouse.
From The Gospel Coalition:
The debate may have lost any remaining momentum in the death of the two figures at the forefront of the ETS controversy. Pinnock, open theism’s best-known scholar, and Roger Nicole, the Reformed theologian and founding member of ETS who brought charges against Pinnock and Sanders, died within four months of each other in 2010.
Bruce Ware, who served as ETS president in 2009 and was intimately involved in defending the classical view of God, said that openness adherents seem to have virtually disappeared from ETS, and that publishing from open theists seems to have dried up as well. But, he added, the view itself remains alive and growing within some pockets of evangelicalism.
“Since the ETS vote took place, the issue of open theism, which had been dominant for a decade, came to an end as a pressing issue,” Ware said. “Interestingly, there has been less presence of members (if they still are) who would advance an openness position since that vote. I suspect that even though the vote was in their favor, the vote was also very close . . . this did send a signal.”
Posted on Jed Smock’s Facebook page:
OPEN THEISTS HAVE THE ANSWERS
April 16, 2014, Indiana University,
There were two groups, who claimed to have reserved the area under the clock; one was the secularist society. I started preaching in another area; I gained an audience of one boy, who quietly listened. Cole told me that he had recently experienced a baptism of fire and was determined to put Christianity into practice in his life. John the Baptist promised that the one who came after him “shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” Few talk about the fire baptism today. I experienced it shortly after I was converted and I have been burning ever since.
The atheist called out to me and invited me to come preach close to him, which I did at the next break. He said, “Brother Jed, you are good advertising for us.” He had a large colorful sign which read, “ASK AN ATHEIST? Where does morality come from? Where did the universes come from? Is it reasonable to believe in God?”
Again at the second break I gathered an audience of one other than the atheist. This girl kept firing good questions at me and she actually was listening to my answers. However, after about 30 minutes her “boyfriend” came and whisked her away. I referred to him as Satan.
At the next break I lifted my banner, which lists various sins popular among college students. I also preached from a front page article in the Indiana Daily Student, entitled, “Deadly silence.” A large picture showed 1100 back packs spread on the lawn, which represented the 1100 students, who annually die by suicide. The exhibition was sponsored by “Send Silence Packing.” In the article psychologist, Chris Meno, claimed, “The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression.” I countered, “Suicide, which might better be called self-destruction or self-murder is not caused; it is chosen.” Meno wanted the “stigma against mental health to be stopped.” I countered, “The problem is not mental health; it is mental unhealthiness, which is the result of sin, guilt and lack of Christian hope.” A sign on one of the backpacks reportedly said, “Forty-four percent of college students have felt so depressed it was hard to function.” My answer is that alcohol, marijuana, masturbation and fornication can all contribute to depression. Drunks, dope fiends, masturbators and fornicators are not functioning well. Attempting to remove the stigma associated with unsound thinking (mental illness) has intensified the problem. There should be a stigma connected with bad thinking. Men need to transform their thinking through the renewing of their mind which is a result of faith in Jesus Christ and a mind focused on God and others instead of one’ self. I did not get any reaction to my message on sound mental health.
The atheist ended up asking me a lot of questions and later the girl who had been whisked away by the devil returned with more queries. The atheist admitted that my answers were different than most Christians. The basic reason for this is that I am an open theist for which I am thankful. Open theism intelligently answers so many of the legitimate complaints that sceptics have against a determinist God who exists outside of time and has absolute knowledge of the future. Oh, the God of the Bible is so often misrepresented by his most vocal alleged defenders.
Caleb, the homosexual, who is confided to a wheel chair, is a regular at my meeting. He showed up about 3 PM and informed me the reason I did not have my usual crowd was the so many students were attending actress, Meryl Streep’s, speech in the IU Auditorium, where she was receiving at honorary doctorate. I had noticed the class breaks were considerable less populated than usual. I folded things up at 3:30 PM.
I enjoyed talking with the atheists; he was polite and thoughtful. He even defended me when a woman from the other groups was speculating on having me removed since they had the area reserved. The atheist answered, “There is plenty of room for all of us.”
3. Suppose we accept the third explanation: the explanation which affirms that God’s foreknowledge and foreordination are not necessarily all-comprehending.
You shrink from an attitude of thought like that toward the Supreme Being. It appears, does it not, to reflect discredit upon His perfection? Yet, let us not be too hasty in our judgment. Many earnest and noted scholars defend the position and strenuously maintain that not only does it not dishonor God, but that it is the only scheme of thought which does not divest Him of the essential attributes of His divinity.
Jürgen Moltmann, a German Reformed theologian who is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen is an Open Theist (although the Open Theist controversy seems to be uniquely American).
From Roger Olson:
At first he was as always a bit reserved, but after perhaps five or six glasses of wine he became downright talkative. (The university hosting the lectures did not pay for the wine! I think the dean paid for it out of his own pocket! Moltmann, of course, did not know that.) I asked him about “open theism.” He asked me to explain it to him which I did. His response was: “But of course! That is part of the kenosis of God!”
From Rachel Held Evens:
From Kurt: Hi Dr. Wright, First, allow me to admit that your writing and speaking has been the most influential thing in my theological, missional, and spiritual journey in the last 10 years. Before I was introduced to your work, I was convinced that Christianity was all about pie in the sky and leaving this world – not redeeming it. Discovering Romans 8 and a God who groans with creation for its ultimate redemption – [re]new[ed] creation – changes everything! For showing me this – along with various other things about the historical Jesus, the apostle Paul, and theology in general – I am truly grateful.
I do have a question for you: I am wondering if you would be willing to “show your cards” when it comes to open theism? Most of my friends who are open theists, Greg Boyd and others, are very influenced by your work. Certainly, nothing you have said seems to contradict such a God of possibilities. In fact, your reading of Abraham and Israel as God’s “plan B” actually helps give us a framework for thinking about such things. Even so, what would your thoughts be on open theism? I realize that you may not agree with this position of mine, but I would be intrigued to hear some your observations. Thanks for your continued ministry to the church!
Open theism is not something I have done a lot with and to be honest (and it’s late at night and I’m busy). I strongly suspect this is one of those classic American either/or questions that is forcing theology into a box. I never use the language of ‘Plan B’, certainly not about Abraham and Israel; in fact I often quote the Rabbi who envisaged God having Abraham in mind from the start. I don’t want to sign a blank check (or cheque as we spell it), especially when it’s written in dollars not pounds. Go figure!
How did that controversy become so explosive? Well, one way was anti-open theists misrepresenting open theism to non-theologians, pastors and lay people, as, for example, belief that “God gives bad advice” and belief in an “ignorant God.” Many of them went directly to denominational conventions and got resolutions passed against open theism by frightening delegates by implying that open theism is a Trojan horse for process theology. (They would sometimes spend more time talking about process theology than open theism and allow the scared delegates to think they are basically the same.)
I’ve often wondered why open theism, of all things, led to such hysteria (and sometimes outright dishonesty) among its critics. One thing I suspect is that many Calvinists realized that if many evangelicals adopted open theism, one of their strongest arguments against Arminianism would be nullified—that Arminianism cannot explain how God foreknows future free decisions of creatures without in any way determining them.
Joshua Porter writes:
To this day, after reading many articles, essays and books that speak out against open theism, I have not read anything that I believe to be a convincing case against it. In my experience, I see folks paint a very nasty picture of something they call open theism, but isn’t actually open theism at all. Almost every argument I have ever read against Openess Theology is simply a straw man.
For instance, Moody’s Handbook of Theology states in the first line of its evaluation of open theism “Openness theology directly affects the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. By postulating that God does not know the future and makes mistakes, how are the prophetic portions of Scripture believable?”
I’ve never heard of any Open Theist that believes God does not know the future and makes mistakes. It seems that some detractors of Open Theism believe, personally, that this is inevitable where Open Theism leads, but the fact is that open theists do not. If i argued that Calvinists believe God is hateful, arbitrary, unjust and sadistic, I suspect a Calvinist would (rightly) refute the claim. Just because I believe an idea leads to a certain conclusion does not mean that it does.
The truth is that Open Theists believe that God is completely all-knowing (omniscient), incapable of mistakes, omnipotent and completely sovereign (in control). Open Theists simply believe that God’s omniscience and sovereignty function in a different way than, say, Calvinists or Armenians believe. These conclusions are based on scripture alone and not opinions or personal conflicts outside of the bible.
Reposted from realityisnotoptional.com:
The Record Keeper is a steampunk themed webseries centered around the angels’ perspectives as events occur throughout the Bible. If that sounds awesome, it is because it is awesome. The series was produced as an outreach project by Seventh Day Adventists. Adventists seem to ascribe to a Warfare Worldview in which the forces of evil engage against the forces of good for the fate of the future. This is the premise of the series.
In this series, the main protagonists are two angels (Larus and Cadan) who had long been friends but are separated as one defects with Satan (Larus) while the other remains loyal to God (Cadan). These two periodically meet with a “Record Keeper”. At some point in the past, God has appointed a Record Keeper to create a database of the facts of events throughout history. The purpose of these records is to build an evidence file for use during a future judgment. The record keeper acts as a neutral third party. In order to eliminate bias, Satan’s angels are given temporary guarantee of safety in order to periodically meet with the record keeper to give their version of events. They agree to this as a way to make sure documentation is included in the records against God and in their own defense. In the series, it comes to light that the agents of Satan employ their own record keeper in anticipation of a future judgment of God (they anticipate defeating God at some point).
Normally angels meet individually with the Record Keeper, but, because of the closeness of the two friends, they are allowed to meet together (one representing God and the other representing Satan). The series follows their relationship as the events of the Bible unfold. Additionally, the person of the record keeper is examined, as she struggles with learning about all these events second-hand.
The series, although creative and well written, was suspended by the leaders of the Seventh Day Adventists after the leaders objected to material found within. One such objection is that Open Theist themes strongly present itself in the plot narrative. This Open Theism is a reoccurring theme, as God’s angels plot to bring about prophecies from the Old Testament and Satan’s angels plot to negate them. The entire titular role is played by a record keeper meant to store information for future examination (the first few episodes suggest for use on judgment day, the last suggests for use by third parties). The storing of information is strongly anti-platonic. Really interesting is the episode where Satan becomes concerned that one of his angel’s is “leaking information” to God’s angels, something that should not be an issue if omniscience was assumed.
Additionally, the idea that Satan and his minions even believe “they can defeat God” does not play into the platonistic concept of who God is and what attributes He possesses. The Biblical account of the angelic rebellion is just as hard for platonistic Christians to explain as it is for critics of this webseries. Instead, the series is written similar to the Bible, in which Open Theism is an underlying theme manifesting in the behavior and dialogue of all actors. The times that platonism is injected seem very forced (“One day they will invent crumpets.”).
The series excels at bringing out good ideas that should probably be explored further. Why did the angels rebel? What were their motivations? How did they see their roles throughout history? How did they experience the events in the Bible? Where were they and what did they do while these events were taking place?
The series depicts multiple reasons for angels defecting with Satan (referred to as the “general” throughout the series). One of Satan’s main appeals was his declarations against “inequality” in God’s kingdom. Satan promised equality and freedom. Larus wanted freedom from God. He viewed God’s control with spitefulness and longed to control his own destiny. Another angel defected due to jealousy. This angel had been given the same position by Satan that she was rejected for in God’s kingdom. Certainly, Satan’s own jealousy is traditionally the reason given as to why Satan defected.
In the series, the audience is exposed to angels as persons. The angels have individual motivations and desires. The angels reason. The angels are affected with strong emotion. The angels are explored as people. Angels are not considered as a homogeneous mass of automatons.
Another series highlight is that “child murder” is portrayed as God’s ultimate hated sin. This is repeated a few times, and the act is even disdained by Satan’s followers. The implications for modern abortion are obvious.
As for the movie itself. The filming is done very professionally. In addition to steampunk themed offices, the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend serve as backdrop of this fantasy world. The actors are mostly believable. The dialogue is solid and interesting (plenty of nuances to flush out). The soundtrack includes an excellent rendition of Amazing Grace during the final episode. This is a high quality web series.
The list of reasons given by the Seventh Day Adventists as to why this series was suspended are mostly bogus, predicated on assumptions and a poor understandings of the plot. For example:
-The series does not portray Satan as “ruler of hell”, unless a poorly lit warehouse counts as hell. Satan must have some sort of base of operations. Why not a warehouse?
-Angels are seen ensuring that Jesus is born in Bethlehem through use of their power. Plenty of events in the Bible describe angels using their power to bring out prophecy. An angel slaughtering the Assyrian army is one such example (2 Kings 19:35). The Adventist leaders rightly understand that there are severe Open Theist implications. They reject the Bible due to their philosophy.
-When characters in the film say of Jesus “He’s not human” and “He cannot die”, they are shown to be wrong in the very next episode. That was the point, Satan’s angels believed (in the series) that Jesus was immortal and thus did not kill him sooner.
– The episode states “the plan required the death of God.” The Adventist leaders claim, “Deity did not die”. Peter claims contrary to this: “[You] killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15)
Possibly the feminizing of the Holy Spirit is the strongest point that they have, but most of their complaints are shaky and amount to petty concerns. It would be a shame to throw out this gem based on trivial theological mistakes.
In retrospect, it is probably a good thing that this webseries was discontinued by the Seventh Day Adventists. Discontinuation ensures the series is not ruined with all the “fixes” suggested by the Adventist leaders, solidifying for eternity the theological implications of the series.
Excerpted from a post entitled: Calvinist Pastor Turns from Calvinism to Arminianism after 20 Years as a Calvinist and Intensive Study:
The third thing that set me on the course to reject RT was the thing that had led me into it – Scripture itself. As a pastor I preached through books of the Bible verse by verse. Occasionally I would encounter a common Calvinistic proof text and realize that it did not necessarily say what I had thought it said. John 3 does not necessarily teach that regeneration precedes faith; John 10 does not necessarily teach that Jesus died only for the elect; Eph 1 does not necessarily teach that God ordained whatever happens; 1 Pet 1 does not necessarily teach that God elected individuals for salvation – unconditionally, effectually, exclusively. Once again, these discoveries did not shake my confidence in RT. There were too many passages that clearly taught it; I considered Romans 9 impregnable to Arminian assault. But I realized that the quantity of verses used to support my view did not matter if, upon closer scrutiny, they could not bear the weight that we Calvinists were putting on them on a case-by-case basis.
Poor Eldredge. In his book he claims not to be an Open Theist, yet was attacked as if he were an open theist:
For those familiar with the current debate over what is sometimes called open theism, Eldredge explicitly states that he is not advocating this position. But this is even more problematic. If he is familiar with the debate, and he is not an open theist, then why would he use language that is so closely tied to that position?
Based on the language that Eldredge uses, there are several problems. First, the sovereignty of God is placed in subjection to man’s freedom. It is a man-centered model that develops a picture of God based on a particular understanding of human relationships. The best approach would be to begin with the nature of God as revealed in Scripture. Second, if God is taking risks, there are no assurances that God’s purposes will actually be accomplished. If God is uncertain abut how his creatures will respond, then how can we really be guaranteed that he will be ultimately victorious over evil in the end? Third, if Eldredge is correct, there is a diminishment of the power of God since there is no certainty regarding the outcome of his “risky” decision to create. God’s power would seem to be limited to his creation’s willingness to cooperate. The biblical view of God’s omnipotence, his ability to bring about his will, shows that God is not subject to or dependant upon his creatures (Is 14:24-27; Matt 19:26; Eph 1:11; Luke 1:37).
A Facebook post on Open Theism by Thomas J Oord:
Chris – I like your blog essay. Of course, I agree with presentism, and I read the Bible through presentist eyes.
For a definition of presentism, see this post.
An excerpt from Roger Olson’s post on Stealth Calvinism:
I have been warning fellow Arminians for a long time that the Calvinist attacks on open theism will come around to haunt us. I knew that because all the evangelical books attacking open theism include arguments that, if valid, would also rule out Arminianism (e.g., that the open theist God cannot guarantee such-and-such in history because he allegedly lacks the knowledge necessary for that).
* July 8th Open Theism Enyart/White Debate: Well-known theologian James White will debate Bob Enyart, the pastor of Denver Bible Church on Open Theism: Is the future settled or open? On Tuesday evening, July 8 at 6:30 p.m., the debate will be held downtown Denver at Colorado’s historic Brown Palace hotel. If you’re in the state, or can be, you are cordially invited to come on out and we’ll have a great time in the Lord! Admission is free and seats for 100 attendees are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Quoting OpenTheism.org, “Open Theism is the Christian doctrine that the future is not settled but open because God is alive, eternally free, and inexhaustibly creative.” That is, God can forever think new thoughts, design new works, write new songs. He has not exhausted His creativity and never will for. Of His kingdom there will be no end and thus by God’s everlasting freedom and abilities, the future cannot be settled but must be open. In the meantime, check out some great O.T. debates including Bob’s previous efforts by clicking on the “Debate” tab at OpenTheism.org.
For previous posts about White, click here.
From Theological Graffiti:
Fast forward to 2013, when I and three others co-directed the first Open theology conference geared toward non-academics. This conference was supposed to gather all those who have embraced Open theism and are trying to live it out in their everyday contexts. Right away, it became clear we hadn’t fully anticipated just how different were all the other views Open theists hold. There were folks from widely divergent points of view—not just moderate evangelicals, like we expected. Some who attended were dyed-in-the-wool Fundamentalists. They balked at the suggestion that theistic evolution should be accepted by Open theists, and they insisted that the Bible be considered “inerrant.” Open theism had it’s first faction.
The “conservative/progressive” split in any U.S.-based theological movement isn’t so shocking. Virtually every U.S. denomination has some form of it. But what did surprise me was when the non-Fundamentalist Open theists began to splinter into even more factions. The next to demand their views be accepted by all Open theists were those who affirm the early Creeds of the church in addition to the Bible as authoritative.
Jacob Hunt interviews Tom Lukashow on Open Theism during the last few hundred years:
Tom: Open theism is not a new theological fad that was invented in the 1990’s. We are part of a long tradition of Christian believers. There have been many brave open theists who faced enormous opposition for the past few hundred years. However, this time I do not think the movement will fade into obscurity and need to be reinvented again in the future. Keep up the great work!
On his timeline of Open Theism:
Having dealt with criticism from Calvinists since the 1970’s I was sensitive to the charge open theist views are associated with and arose from heretical groups. I decided to include only authors who would be considered orthodox with respect to doctrines such as the Trinity, virgin birth, Deity of Christ, etc. Also, the bibliography does not include, as far as I am able to determine, any process theologians or Boston Personalists. I found some 19thcentury Universalists who were open theists but decided not to include them.
By Jonathan Merritt:
One of the markers of the neo-Calvinist movement is isolationism. My Reformed friends consume Calvinist blogs and Calvinist books, attend Calvinist conferences, and join Calvinist churches with Calvinist preachers. They rarely learn from or engage with those outside their tradition. (My feeling is that this trend is less prevalent among leaders than the average followers.)
The most sustainable religious movements, however, are those which are willing to ask hard, full-blooded questions while interacting with more than caricatures of other traditions. When neo-Calvinists insulate and isolate, they hyper-focus on those doctrines their tradition emphasizes and relegate other aspects to the status of afterthought. The Christian faith is meant to be lived and not merely intellectually appropriated. This requires mingling with others who follow Jesus, are rooted in Scripture, and are working toward a restored creation.
From the ReKnew blog:
The implications of this for our understanding of ourselves is, I think, enormous. It means, that God knows you — perfectly (better than you know yourself). It means that God loves you — perfectly (more than you love yourself). And it means that God cares about your suffering and moral convictions — perfectly (more than you care about them yourself).
It also means that it makes sense to begin inquiring about what relationship our Creator wants with us. What are His purposes for our lives? What does He want with us? What can we know about Him? Has He revealed Himself to us at any point? These questions follow naturally once we understand that God is already personally involved in our lives.
From a recent blog post by Thomas J Oord:
The four paths to open and relational theology I identify are these: 1. following the biblical witness, 2. following themes in some Christian theological traditions, 3. following the philosophy of free will, and 4. following the path of reconciling faith and science.
The Pope points out that God is defined by his personal history and His relationship with us:
“Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us. No. Jesus Christ has a history. And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history. So a Christian without history, without a Christian nation, a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible. It is a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life,” Francis said.
Arminian Amanda MacInnis of Cheese Wearing Theology writes about her disillusionment with professors:
As I watched and listened and read, I learned a valuable lesson: Just because the person is an academic, with a PhD and has written a book, does not mean that they are objective, nor are they always fair to their opponent’s argument or even Scripture. I learned very quickly that presuppositions and “I must be right” are very often at the heart of theological arguments…
Take, for example, the following scenario I observed at conference:
One scholar stood up and presented an argument that I have since heard time and time again. God does not repent/relent/regret/change his mind. Scripture says so. See, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (1 Sam 15:29). There, you have it. Proof.
A well-respected OT scholar stood up in response and called the presenter out on his “proof.”
In 1 Sam 15 there are three statements:
God says, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” (1 Sam 15:11)
Samuel the prophet says, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (1 Sam 15:29)
The narrator says, “And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Sam 15:35).
The OT scholar then called the presenter out on Hermeneutics 101: Who is to be trusted most, God? The narrator? A character in the narrative? (Answer: God and the narrator are always right. Characters can and do lie).
And then he pointed out, that Samuel’s “God does not change his mind/lie” is in reference to Saul’s pleading. God has changed his mind about Saul being king, but he won’t change it back.
The presenter hemmed and hawed and blustered. The entire room knew that the OT scholar was right. In a later context the presenter would accuse the OT scholar of being an Open Theist sympathizer! (Gasp! The Horror!)
And there I sat, an innocent theology student, shocked and stunned. How could the presenter not know this? How could the presenter talk about the integrity of Scripture and yet blatantly proof-text? This is a person with a Ph.D.! This is a professor!
For full post, click here.
A new Open Theist blog has been launched by Jacob Hunt. Of interest, Hunt states he is resolving Open Theism and an evolutionary view of history:
However far free-will goes in compensating for all the suffering in our world, when it comes to us Christians who believe an evolutionary account of history, the problem gets worse. It seems that we have to find a compensating good for all the suffering of the animals predating the existence of humans, and the free-will defender cannot do so by appealing to the most obvious bearers of free-will who come to mind – humans. So the evolutionary theologian is in a pickle. Call this pickle, the problem of animal suffering before the fall. This is another problem I would like to sift through in these blog posts, especially since several Open Theists have said things of interest to the subject. How can God be all-powerful and all-good when there was no obvious good compensating for the animal suffering which predated the human fall?
Answers to the bolded questions above are called theodicies. Answers to the latter question are of particular interest to me because many theologians provide a response which minimizes the suffering of animals. My challenge then, will be to ascribe to all the animal kingdom the full dignity it already possesses, while keeping my theology whole. I’m sure this will involve some adjustment to my theology, hopefully without cutting any corners. To those who travel this path with me, I’m glad for your company.
For full post, click here.
From Alan Rhoda’s defunct blog:
(1) Voluntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because he has voluntarily chosen not to know truths about future contingents. Dallas Willard espouses this position.
(2) Involuntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because truths about future contingents are in principle unknowable. William Hasker espouses this position.
(3) Non-Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. J. R. Lucas espouses this position.
(4) Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions asserting of future contingents that they “will” obtain or that they “will not” obtain are both false. Instead, what is true is that they “might and might not” obtain. Greg Boyd (and yours truly) espouses this position.
For full post, click here.
From a new article on Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention:
About 30 percent of Southern Baptist pastors consider their churches Calvinist, according to a poll last year by SBC-affiliated LifeWay Research, but a much larger number — 60 percent — are concerned “about the impact of Calvinism in our convention.”
Eighty percent of SBC pastors disagreed with the idea that only the elect will be saved, according to last year’s LifeWay poll, and two-thirds disagreed with the idea that salvation and damnation have already been determined.
For full news article, click here.
Thomas Oord talks about his latest book in which he reflects on life:
Existence as we know it is abounding in information, values, mystery, and more. We experience love, joy, and happiness, along with evil, pain, and sadness. We act purposefully and intentionally to reach our goals, but we encounter randomness, chance, and luck as well. We seem to act freely much of our lives, but circumstances, opportunities, bodies, and environments limit our freedom. At one moment we may be in awe of the goodness and beauty of our lives, while in the next moment we get discouraged by the horror and ugliness we encounter. And most of the time, our lives are made up of the mundane, usual, and routine.
Making sense of life – in light of such wide-ranging diversity – is a daunting task. But it is a task we inevitably take up. In more or less sophisticated ways, we attempt to figure out how things work and what makes sense. All of us are metaphysicians, in the broad sense.
For full post, click here.
Adam Weinstein on gawker covers the recently deceased Fred Phelps and his rampant Calvinism:
The broad theology of WBC can be summed up in one basic statement:
Only awful, terrible, despicable, depraved people would cause a political hatemongering ruckus at a funeral or an elementary school. That’s absolutely true. The thing is, the faithful of Westboro Baptist Church would be the first to claim that they’re depraved—and so is everyone else. This is the bedrock of their belief system, laid out on their website:
These doctrines of grace were well summed up by John Calvin in his 5 points of Calvinism… Although these doctrines are almost universally hated today, they were once loved and believed, as you can see in many confessions of faith. Even though the Arminian lies that “God loves everyone” and “Jesus died for everyone” are being taught from nearly every pulpit in this generation, this hasn’t always been the case. If you are in a church that supposedly believes the Bible, and you are hearing these lies, then your church doesn’t teach what the Bible teaches.
Also of note, Weinstein’s summery of TULIP:
Basically, five-point Calvinism boils down to: There’s a God who saves some people and screws the rest over for eternity, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. If there were, He wouldn’t be God, and you wouldn’t be a depraved, terrible not-God quivering mass of id urges.
For full post, click here.
A documentary about Open Theist Open Air preacher Jed Smock:
From an anonymous private conversation:
What I’ve learned is that we need to exercise a bit of Christian ecumenism within the Church itself. By that I mean that we need to be firm on essential doctrines (which, to be honest, I haven’t completely determined) and open on non-essentials. Not foolish. Just willing to listen and work through however long it may take.
That’s why I have adopted this maxim as one of my personal mottos:
In essentials, unity;
In non-essentials, liberty;
But in all things, charity.
Believers need to see that by being narrow-minded we lose out on truths we may never have learned otherwise. NOTHING is beyond questioning. That doesn’t mean that essentials can be simply discarded, but that we need to be open to the idea that perhaps there may be nuances we haven’t considered in the essentials or complete upsets of our theology through the non-essentials.
Tom Belt of An Open Orthodoxy, tries his hand and defining core beliefs of Open Theism:
Recent debates have clarified just what’s at the heart of open theism, so I’ll toss this out again just to have in front of us:
– Divine benevolence
– Creation ex nihilo
– Creaturely freedom
– Causal openness
– Divine epistemic openness
For full post, click here.
From Tom Belt of An Open Orthodoxy:
As I speak, the promise of a major unified voice of renewal within the Church is today a fragmented roomful of siblings fighting over who inherits the family name. In one corner you have fundamentalist open theists (imagine that!) who will burn you at the stake for disagreeing with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, some who will anathematize you for being an Old Earther, and others who think Greg Boyd is the Devil. In the opposite corner you have open theists who deeply value diversity for whom “theism” in “open theism” is just a generic theism, like the “theism” in “monotheism” but qualified by “open.” For these, open theists are Christians, Muslims, Jews, and some Hindus who also happen to believe the future is open. In this corner open theism is just an interfaith dialogue about human freedom and indeterminacy. Still for others (like Dwayne and me) open theism was a movement within orthodox (small ‘o’) Christianity. The 1994 authors of The Openness of God were Christian trinitarians, and their trinitarianism wasn’t incidental to their open theism. For these original five (Pinnock and Co.) at least, ‘open theism’ was ‘open trinitariansm’.
For full post, click here.
From Facebook group God is Open:
I’ve found that many Christians think that they are in a group of those that think exactly like they do. Yet there are so many doctrines, from minor to major, within Christendom that it’s a virtual guarantee that no two people have the exact understanding of God and Scripture as any other two. When you start to examine beliefs, it’s soon evident that people you thought held similar beliefs actually hold very different beliefs than you imagined.
This really struck me one time when I was having lunch with a church member and he revealed that he didn’t exactly believe that Jesus had always been God (at least I think that’s what it was…it’s been many years). He was way off from what the church believed, and I realized that what he had told me confidentially (many people seem to feel free to confide their secrets to me) would get him ostracized from the church. Perhaps for good reason too. I’m not arguing that. But I did have the opportunity to help him understand that issue better through careful questions pointing to God’s nature in Scripture.
But even within “orthodoxy” if there really is such a thing in the common sense, there are wide varieties of opinion. If we understand those differences and accept that we are all seeking the truth, rather than getting upset at others with slightly different doctrines, it may help us present the truth in a manner which draws us together than divides us.
The pastor who married my wife and I came from a Quaker background. He mentioned a method they used when they were corporately listening for the word of the Lord. They’d all gather in the meetinghouse and pray about whatever it was on their minds. Then they’d come together and honestly present what they believed God had said. If it wasn’t unanimous, they’d return to prayer, then come together again later to check again. They continued on until all were in agreement.
Now I’m not saying that works. It was rather the attitude displayed. They had a willingness to listen to the Lord with an open and humble attitude together, listening for what God had to say, without dividing over every point.
If believers would approach God’s word in a more peaceful, humble, and LOVING manner, with an open heart toward God, we’d learn so much more and come that much closer to God’s will for His people.
From Roger E Olson of Patheos:
So what is the “fundamentalism” in much contemporary American Calvinism that makes it so objectionable?… 1) a tendency to elevate most secondary doctrines, non-essential to being an orthodox Christian, to essential status, 2) a tendency to avoid Christian fellowship and cooperation with people who claim to be Christian but are not “like minded,” 3) a tendency to be highly suspicious of the spirituality of anyone who thinks differently about secondary and tertiary doctrines, however slight the disagreement may be, 4) a tendency to elevate to sacrosanct status a whole system of theology and consider any deviation from it as (at best) on a slippery slope toward apostasy, 5) a tendency to focus obsessively on one or more beliefs or practices that, in the larger scheme of orthodox Protestantism, is relatively minor (e.g., modern Bible translations that include inclusive language about human beings, pretribulation rapture, young earth creationism, etc.), 6) a tendency to be harshest (using the “rhetoric of exclusion”) toward those closest theologically but flawed doctrinally at one or a few points.
For full post, click here.
From the Facebook group Arminians and Open Theists in Open Dialogue:
One of the heroic aspects of the character of James Arminius was his courage to follow his studies where they led. So filled with integrity was he that when asked to support Beza’s view of predestination and after researching it to prepare to defend it, he realized it was error. So he had to adopt the oppositional view. That cost him his reputation and standing. And cost others their lives and their homeland. Yet, Arminius was proven correct.
If an Arminian organization kicks out members for simply exploring OVT, how are they not spitting on the grave of the noble Arminius? How are they not adopting the same attitude as the kangaroo court of Dordt?
One of the egregious aspects of the Calvinist groups is how they use their Confessions as litmus tests for fellowship.
Another is how the idolize Calvin and TULIP.
I don’t idolize Arminius or any tradition. I value them, I benefit from them, but they are not God, and not scripture. And since they are human constructs they are subject to human revision.
From Carson T. Clark of Musings of a Hardlining Moderate writes on prayer:
Don’t get me wrong. Obviously there should be a good deal of explicit communication with God, and it’s certainly healthy to do so on a daily basis. Not argument there. Yet maybe there’s also something to be said for the implicit communication my mentor alluded to. Perhaps it too is a form of prayer. If it is, I’ll tell you this much: Praying without ceasing just became a whole lot more plausible, not to mention psychologically healthy.
For full post, click here.
From the comments section of the Patheos: Why open theism doesn’t even matter (very much) blog post:
It troubles me that for all the lip service given to civility, fairness, and honesty among conservative evangelicals, we succeeded in silencing (in a way tantamount to intellectual bullying) an important and potentially enriching theological discussion on the nature of omniscience (even if we end up disagreeing with the Openness view). I followed much of the public debate and found it disheartening. In my opinion, this is a great loss to the church on a number of fronts: (1) we failed to demonstrate that even with deep theological differences, we can listen, understand, and assess and yes, profoundly disagree, in a Christian manner; (2) we have also, in effect, stifled any future discussion about this subject (or similar subjects) in conservative circles and created a social stigma around anyone who thinks the view has merit; (3) we managed to push Open Theists (unfairly, I think) to the periphery of “theological acceptability” so that others automatically dismiss their other contributions due to their stand on this one issue.
Some will no doubt see these developments as a great victory for Christian truth, but I see them as a great loss to what could have been a robust and beneficial contribution to our understanding of God. While I am not an Open Theist, I am sympathetic to the concerns that they raise and believe that, as Christians, they have the right to raise them and have their views treated fairly in public discussion. Are we so theologically insecure that we can no longer engage ideas that question our assumptions and challenge us to rethink our positions–especially, when there is at least a prima facie reason for it based on what Scripture itself says?
In a very interesting post, Roger E. Olson alludes to the fact that the entire anti Open Theism movement is built around censorship, not debate:
The tenor of the controversy is one thing; the truth status of open theism is another thing. I was writing then primarily about the controversy. I believe that, for the most part, it was left unfinished. The anti-open theists, mostly Calvinists, won the day insofar as they persuaded (often, I am convinced, through misrepresentation) evangelical leaders such as administrators of institutions of higher learning to shun open theists.
For full article, click here.
On Grit in the Oyster, the author talks about Calvinist intolerance for theology:
The second reason I don’t indentify as Reformed is because of the tradition’s resulting unwillingness to do theology. This unwillingness is deeply ingrained. And it is deadly. Since Reformation theology is equated with ‘the-gospel-faith-once-delivered’, it becomes the holy deposit to be cherished and guarded: NOT questioned or added to. In fact questioning the tradition is the very opposite of faithfulness: it smacks of unbelief. Since the doctrine is from God, our task is to maintain it, and make sure we don’t turn away from the truth.
Theology as a discipline, then, poses a threat. For orthodoxy has been established: any further theologising simply risks distorting and debasing it. The only theology tolerated is what we might call micro-theology: theology in the gaps where the movement has not yet turned its attention, further clarification of doctrines long-accepted, work on small details. And this sort of micro-theology has long been a specialty of the Reformed movement: arguments over small matters. Rival theories about the precise relationship between law and gospel, for example. We have long been champions at dividing over such minutiae. If the hair won’t split, we will happily split for it! But on all issues of any gospel-importance, the Church’s doctrine has been well-established for centuries: those discussions are closed and no further work is wanted. Any new suggestions or divergent formulations are a priori heterodox.
For context, click here.
Excerpt from Dr. Paul Owen’s paper What Is Wrong With the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement?:
The TULIP Personality
Calvinism today seems to appeal mostly to a certain sort of personality, and that personality is not always healthy. I have discovered that the person who really spends a lot of time talking about the “doctrines of grace,” tends to fit a typical profile. They tend to be male (rarely do you find women sitting around arguing about the details of TULIP), intellectually arrogant, argumentative, insecure (and therefore intolerant), and prone to constructing straw-man arguments. In order for the typical Calvinist’s faith to remain secure, he seems to feel the need to imagine all others outside his theological box as evil, uninformed, or just plain stupid. I have seen this in men of all ages, some Baptist, some Presbyterian, some laymen, some ordained ministers.
I don’t think there is any necessary connection between Calvinism and such traits, so why does it seem to be so prevalent today? Part of the reason, which I do not have time or space to develop here, is that the evangelical church has no robust ecclesiology, and thus no structured spirituality to put into practice as the body of Christ. And given the absence of a structured spiritual life, Reformed Christianity tends to be reduced to a set of doctrines to contemplate, which attracts mainly certain kinds of people, and encourages certain kinds of attitudes among believers. Thus, when you remove Reformed theology from its proper historical place in the structured life of Reformed religion and ecclesiology, and plant it in the foreign soil of modern evangelical gnostic spirituality, it takes a grotesque shape that is contrary to its origins.
One thing I have noticed is that such features tend to display themselves most dramatically in those who experience Calvinism as a “second blessing.” They grow up either in a non-Christian home, or a Christian environment that did not talk about issues related to Calvinism. When they first encounter the “doctrines of grace,” they are suddenly captured by the intellectual beauty of a logical system that “makes sense” to them. When listening to Calvinist newbies over the years, as they describe their first exposure to Reformed theology, there is an evident “conversion narrative.” New TULIP converts speak in hushed tones about when they first “came to accept” the doctrines of grace. You get the sense that they entered a deeper state of Christian spirituality and walk with Christ by discovering that God arbitrarily saves and arbitrarily destroys whomsoever He chooses. I think that there is a certain obnoxious personality that likes to feel superior to others, and unfortunately, the “doctrines of grace” seem to do this for them.
This should be a reminder to all who view God as Open, we should minimize any arrogance, haughtiness, or feelings of intellectual superiority.
For context, click here.
Jess in Process is a blog by mother Jessica Kelly. Here is how she describes herself.
I’m an aspiring author, trained counselor, wife, and mother. I’m also a… well… widow doesn’t fit, my spouse is healthy. Orphan doesn’t describe me, I have several parents. There’s just no title for a mom who loses a child… that’s the one I’m looking for.
In 2012, Jess tragically lost her 4 year old son, Henry, to brain cancer. In her blog, she describes dealing with this suffering with God’s help. Raw emotion coupled with sound theology reverberate throughout her posts. Do not expect to read this with dry eyes. This blog in an excellent resources for Christians trying to understand how God can be good while evil exists in our fallen world.
Henry, age 4.
Gregory Boyd, from the answers session of Ask an Open Theist:
My first encounter with the “backlash” you mentioned took place in the mid-90’s when John Piper launched a public crusade to get me fired from Bethel University and to have my church kicked out of the Baptist General Conference on the grounds that I was a “heretic.” There were also attempts by some to force publishers to stop publishing my books and for Christians to boycott bookstores that sold them. Hundreds of pastors signed a petition to get me fired, with only one of them taking the time to ask me what I actually believed and why I believed it.
And his personal response:
Being the sinner that I am, my initial response was anger mixed with a little fear. But it wasn’t too long before the Lord got my attention and helped me realize that this response was neither Christ-like nor healthy for me. I strongly sensed that the Lord gave me an assignment I was to carry out for a year to help me through this period: Every single day, I was to pray for the well-being of those who were leading this crusade! Initially, this was really hard, but I soon found that this exercise freed me from the cancer of bitterness and even empowered me to genuinely love my “enemy.” This deepened my conviction about the importance of obeying Jesus’ command to love, serve and pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5:44-45; Lk 6:27-35). I encourage anyone who is harboring anger toward someone to engage in this daily exercise.
For full post, click here.