Sunday, December 16, 2012

Musings, Open Theism and the "Openness" of God

I finished reading Greg Boyd's "God of the Possible" in an attempt to learn what the fuss was about regarding open theism. After reading Boyd's slim but intriguing book, I was a bit hungry for more. I glanced through articles by Bruce Ware and other critics and didn't find them compelling. That isn't to say that I found the positive case for open theism particularly persuasive, but I don't think the criticism are particularly strong.

I was particularly struck by T. Richard Rice's (professor of theology and philosophy of religion at Loma Linda University in California) arguments displaying the biblical evidence for such a position of God's openness. They fall into roughly three categories:

1. God's feelings. 

God experiences "regret" over creation and making Saul king. (Gen 6:6 and I Sam 15:35). Another example appealed to is the book of Jonah, specifically chapter three verse four. The proclamation of judgment is instead relented and replaced with verse ten, asserting that God would not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened (based off NIV translation).

Scripture offers multiple poignant instances of God being portrayed as a jilted lover, as His chosen people refuse His love. Especially see the description within the book of Hosea, with emphasis on chapter 2. He is also described as a "jealous God" in Exodus 20:5 and as a "husband desiring reconciliation" with his wife, Israel (Jer 3).

2. God's intentions.


Another example is found in Exodus 32:14, where God relents from bringing the threatened disaster against the Israelites for their idolatry. To add another concept, God listened to a human mediator, Moses, who reminded God of the promises made to the patriarchs (v11-13). According to George A.F. Knight in his commentary on Exodus, when Moses urges God to repent, he uses the very same word that the prophets used when appealing to Israel to stop from sinning.

God is slow to anger (Num 14:18, Ex 34:6) and this is shown in His 'judgment' over Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-33. Apparently, God 'listened' to Moses and like a pro, Moses got the count down to ten. I'm uncertain how this all fits together, but I did find the raw evidence compelling.

Some of these passages have even prompted well-known Fuller Theological Seminary OT professor at John Goldingay to say that much of this does indeed sound like open theism.

3. God's actions. 

Dr. Rice notes that, "...the very concept of an act involves change." The biblical support for these are impressive. We see creation (Gen 1-2), turning hatred to salvation (Gen 45:4-7) and ultimately turning from Saul to David (I Samuel 15:35, 16:1-13). These are but a few examples.

I am not an open theist, but I've found the case far more compelling as of late. I think these are worthy of some serious consideration.

--Nick

Recommended reading:

Greg Boyd, "The God of the Possible"
Clark Pinnock and Richard Rice, "The Openness of God"
John Sanders, "The God who Risks"

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