by Jeff Robinson"Open Theism"
"Open T heism"
A "new" view of God, known as "open theism," which denies the orthodox understanding of God's omniscience, absolute sovereignty, and other attributes, is finding its way into evangelical churches, according to Bruce Ware.
Ware, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, hopes to expose this new teaching for what it is: an unbiblical redefinition of God. "Open theism" proposes a view of God that is altogether different from what has been understood by the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout the history of the church.
Ware tackles this "updated" view of God in his new book, God's Lesser Glory: the Diminished God of Open Theism [Crossway]. His is the first full-length attempt by an evangelical scholar at analyzing and correcting the openness view of God.
Ware shows both the central tenets of open theism and the scriptural warrant its proponents use to undergird those holdings. He interacts with the writings of leading openness theologians such as Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger, all of whom are evangelical ministers and scholars.
Central to the openness view is a denial of the exhaustive foreknowledge of God. Additionally, open theists hold that:
• God neither knows in advance the future free actions of His moral creatures nor can He control those future free actions.
• Tragic events occur over which God has no control and when they do occur, God should not be blamed because He was unable to prevent them from occurring, and He did not will or cause them to occur. God feels the pain of those who endure this suffering.
• God is love and He may be trusted always to do His best to offer guidance that is intended to serve others' well being. However, God sometimes realizes that His guidance may have inadvertently and unexpectedly led to unwanted hardship and suffering.
• At times, God may repent of His own past actions, realizing that His own choices have not worked out well, have led to unexpected hardship and may not, in retrospect, have been best.
The God of open theism is clearly not the God of classical theism, Ware said. In addition to omniscience, the doctrines of sovereignty, providence, omnipotence, immutability, and impassability-as held historically by the Christian church-are utterly recast by openness thought, he noted. "What is ultimately at stake is the glory of God," he said.
Openness beliefs will strike a cord with America's cult of self-esteem and self-centeredness, the professor said. "Those who hold to the openness view of God present their God as more caring and loving and relational and connected to us, and I think that will resonate with a lot of people, especially in an age when self-esteem and feeling good about yourself is at a premium.
"I am prayerful about this because I really think it is something that will appeal to a wide audience. Many laypersons may say, ‘It [appears to be] based on Scripture, so it must be true.' That's the main reason I felt a deep need to write this book."
In God's Lesser Glory, Ware commits 76 of the book's 230 pages to analyzing and interacting through Scripture with open theism's denial of God's exhaustive foreknowledge. Open theists use Bible passages such as Genesis 22:12 (Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac, and God's supposed learning that Abraham is faithful by his willingness to slay the boy) to say that God learns about the future as it unfolds.
They affirm God's growth in knowledge from Genesis 22 while avoiding the implication that God lacks knowledge of the past and present if an openness interpretation were to be given of Genesis 18:20,21.
Ware shows the inconsistent manner in which open theists interpret passages that ostensibly reveal God's limited future knowledge, while simultaneously affirming God's perfect knowledge of both the past and presence, as well as His omnipresence.
Is open theism a Christian heresy or merely a viable alternative by which evangelicals may view God?
"I prefer the term ‘unbiblical,' because it is a far more serious indictment than even the term ‘heresy,'" Ware said, "because Scripture rings clear in affirming the classical view of God. We must be charitable in this debate, but at the same time we have to be unmovable in affirming the classic doctrine of God, because ultimately, His glory is at stake."