An article on Open Theism and Greg Boyd

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Pastor Larry, Jun 13, 2002.

  1. Pastor Larry

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  2. ScottEmerson

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    I thought it might be worthwhile to see what Greg Boyd says himself about the mischaracterizations that are found within that link. This is froma presentation to the Baptist General Conference:

     
  3. ScottEmerson

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    Objection 1. The Open view undermines God’s omniscience

    Dr. Boyd’s Response: I affirm (because Scripture teaches) that God is absolutely all knowing. There is no difference in my understanding of God’s omniscience and that of any other orthodox theologian, but I hold that part of the reality which God perfectly knows consists of possibilities as well as actualities. The difference lies in our understanding of the nature of the future, not in our understanding of God’s omniscience.

    2. The open view undermines God’s Omnipotence

    I affirm (because Scripture teaches) that God is omnipotent. He is Creator of all things and thus all power comes from him. As with all Arminians, I also hold that God limits the exercise of his own power by giving free will to those whom he has created in his own image.

    3. The open view undermines out confidence in God’s ability to accomplish his purposes

    I affirm (because Scripture teaches) that God can and has guaranteed whatever he wants about the future, since he is omnipotent. I also affirm (because Scripture also teaches) that God created us with the capacity to love, and thus empowered us to decide some matters for ourselves. Within the parameters set by the Creator, parameters which guarantee whatever God wants to guarantee about the future, humans have some degree of self-determination. This means that concerning the fate of particular individuals things may not turn out as God desires. If we deny this, we must accept that God actually desires some people to go to hell. Scripture denies this (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

    4. The open view undermines God’s perfection

    I affirm (because Scripture teaches) the absolute perfection of God. I do not see, however, that Scripture teaches that the future must be predetermined either in God’s mind or in God’s will for God to be perfect. Rather, I believe that God’s perfection is more exalted when we understand him to be so transcendent in his power that he genuinely gives free will to morally responsible agents.

    5. The open view undermines the power of prayer

    I affirm (because Scripture teaches) that petitionary prayer is our most powerful tool in bringing about the Father’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” Indeed, because my view allows for the future to be somewhat open, I believe it makes the best sense out of the urgency and efficaciousness which Scripture attaches to prayer.

    6. The open view cannot account for biblical prophecy

    I affirm (because Scripture teaches) that God can and does determine and predict the future whenever it suits his sovereign purposes to do so. But I deny that this logically entails, or that Scripture teaches, that the future is exhaustively determined. God is wise enough to be able to achieve his purposes while allowing his creatures a significant degree of freedom.

    7. The open view is incoherent

    Some argue that it is logically impossible for God to guarantee aspects of the future without controlling everything about the future. This objection has been raised by Calvinists against Arminians for centuries and is no more forceful against the Open view than it is against classical Arminians. Everything in life, from our personal experience down to the quantum particles, points to the truth that predictable stability does not rule out an element of unpredictably.

    8. The Scripture used to support the open view may be interpreted as phenomenological anthropomorphisms

    This asserts that these passages are a human way of speaking about things as they seem to be, not as they really are. However, nothing in the context of these Scriptures, covering a variety of audiences, authors, and contexts, suggests they are. There is no justification for reading into these descriptions of God’s actions anything other than their most natural explanation. How can reports about what God was thinking be phenomenological (Jer. 3:6–7; 19–20; Exod. 13:17)? And of what would they be regarded as anthropomorphic?

    9. The open view demeans God’s sovereignty

    On the contrary, it exalts God’s sovereignty. After describing impending judgment, the prophet Joel states, “‘Yet even now,’ says the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and mourning: and rend your hearts and not your garment.’ Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil. Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him...” (Joel 2:12–14).
     
  4. ScottEmerson

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    Response to #1 | Doesn’t the open view demean God’s sovereignty?

    Many have come to agree that the Open view of God is actually more sovereign than the view our critics hold—a God whose sovereignty is not threatened by empowering his creatures with self-determining freedom. While this freedom gives creatures the capacity to love, it also gives them the capacity to sin, thus making redemption the heart of God’s unfolding plan as revealed in Scripture.

    The Open view demeans God’s sovereignty only if “sovereignty” is equated with “meticulous control.” Defenders of the open view of the future believe that the biblical portrayal of God’s sovereignty consists of much more than mere control and includes dynamic qualities such as flexibility, spontaneity and creativity. These aspects of God’s sovereignty are meaningless if the future is exhaustively settled.

    The God of Open theism is free to determine some aspects of the future according to his will and to anticipate and address his creatures’ choices within the parameters he has established for them, to cultivate real, meaningful and transforming relationships with them, to respond to their fervent and effectual prayers, and even to empty himself and become one of them in the person of Jesus Christ so that they could be reconciled to him. God’s sovereignty is not threatened by these things—rather, it is amplified all the more.

    Response to #2 | Isn’t it true that God doesn’t know the future in the open view?

    This is perhaps the most common misconception about the Open view. Open theists and Classical theists disagree about the nature of the future, not about God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of it. While Classical theists believe that the future consists entirely of settled realities, Open theists believe that the future is partly settled and partly open to possibilities, and thus that God perfectly foreknows it as such.

    Critics who accuse Open theists of denying God’s foreknowledge of the future (or of demeaning God’s sovereignty) are sadly misrepresenting the view rather than acknowledging the common ground both views share. In addition to God’s foreknowledge of the future and God’s absolute sovereignty, the common ground these views share includes the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ; the authority of Scripture; and the doctrine of the Trinity; among many other core Christian beliefs.

    Response to #3 | Isn’t the open view outside historic orthodoxy?

    Advocates of the Open view are found throughout Church history. According to some African American church leaders, it has been the predominant view in the African American Christian tradition (e.g. in The Color of God: The Concept of God in Afro-American Thought [Mercer Press, 1987], Major Jones argues that the African Christian experience of oppression has enabled them to seize a dimension of the biblical portrait of God which the classical western tradition missed because of its overemphasis on control and its indebtedness to platonic philosophy).

    More research needs to be done on the history of the Open view, but our research thus far has found advocates as far back as the fourth century (e.g. Calsidius). This view has also been articulated by a number of noted 19th century western church leaders such as G. T. Fechner, Otto Pfeiderer, Jules Lequier, as well as the great Bible commentator Adam Clarke, the popular Methodist circuit preacher Billy Hubbard, and the renowned Methodist professor and chancellor of Ohio Weslyean University, L. D. McCabe. We hope to include some examples on this site in the near future.

    While it is true that the classical view of God’s foreknowledge has historically been the predominant view of the western church, as protestants, our criteria for testing theological truth has always been Scripture, not tradition. The reformers and our pietist forefathers and foremothers were also accused of wrongly breaking tradition. We now agree they were right. The Open view must be tested by Scripture, just like any other theological system.

    Response to #4 | How can people who believe the open view trust a God who doesn’t control the future and doesn’t know for sure what will happen?

    It’s true that according to the Open view things can happen in our lives which God didn’t plan or even foreknow with certainty (though he always foreknew they were possible). In this view, trusting in God provides no assurance that everything that happens to us will reflect his divine purposes, for there are other agents who also have power to affect us, just as we have power to affect others. This is admittedly a scary thought. But several considerations will put this fear in perspective.

    First, how is the scariness of a view relevant to whether or not it is true? There is no reason to conclude that something is true to the extent that it conforms to our wishes. Indeed, in this case the fact that the Open view doesn’t conform to what we might wish were true actually provides one more reason for thinking that it is true, for as a matter of fact reality rarely conforms to our wishes. If we are honest, our core belief about the world—manifested not by what we say but by what we do—is that this world is sometimes a scary place. Whatever view of God people might embrace they still lock their doors at night.

    Second, I do not see how affirming an all-controlling God provides any real comfort in the face of the frightening aspects of the world. Suppose there has been a string of assaults in your neighborhood. You are understandably concerned about your safety and the safety of your children. How does believing that every aggravated assault was ordained by God help you cope with this fear? It would still be a good idea to buy a padlock for your door and bars for your windows. You still know at the core of your being that the world is just as scary with your belief as without it. So what advantage is your belief?

    I submit that your belief actually makes the world a scarier place, for two reasons. First, if God controls criminals and these criminals victimize godly and ungodly people alike, then it just might be that God has decided to have one of these criminals victimize you and your family. And if God has ordained their brutality toward you, there is nothing you can do about it. Secondly, if God is the sort of God who is capable of ordaining such evils, then what is the basis of your trust in God?

    If God doesn’t control all things, however, then there is something you can do about it. As a morally responsible free person you can make choices which maximize your safety and minimize your vulnerability against other people who choose to do evil. The world is perhaps still scary, but less so than if the Creator himself had the kind of character which made him willing to ordain aggravated assaults and the power to ensure that what he ordains will certainly be accomplished.

    Finally, and most importantly, in the face of a scary world, the Open view offers the same comfort the Bible offers. The Open view affirms that God’s character is unambiguously loving and thus he doesn’t ordain evil. The Open view affirms that regardless of what happens to you, your eternal relationship with the Lord is secure (Rom. 8:31–39). The Open view affirms that Christ will provide peace that passes understanding no matter what your circumstances may be. The Open view affirms that whatever happens God will work with you to bring a redemptive purpose out of the event (Rom. 8:28). And, precisely because the Open view holds that the future is in part not settled, it can affirm that God can foresee future possibilities that are evil and do something about them.
     
  5. KenH

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    I am afraid that Mr. Boyd's idea of God is more like the Greek gods of mythology than the God of the Bible.

    How sad, very sad for those swallowed up by this.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  6. ScottEmerson

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    And why do you say that? My guess would be that Mr. Boyd would state that the God of Augustine and Calvin would owe more to Plato, Aristotle, and Stoicism than the Bible.

    If you think about it, i think a lot of Christians would fall in this category at least somewhat. The majority of people of the faith truly believe that prayer changes things - that if they were not to pray, certain things wouldn't happen, and by praying they do. These people pray for their family members and friends to respond positively to the Holy Spirit - they pray for the healing of the sick - they pray for their own food before they eat it. Such petitionary prayer would seem to encourage some of what Boyd refers to. (Why else would we ask GOd to "deliver us from evil?" Why doesn't God do that anyway, since He wants nothing but good for his children?)

    These people, comprised of the majority and believing at least some of what Boyd proposes (He's not the originator, I'm told), also believe in divine guidance - that if they do not choose to follow God's will in some circumstance, God may have a different plan in their life - i.e. the doctor who says no to God's call to be a missionary can still do things for God in his hospital where He works.

    I also think that a lot of people are on Boyd's side when it comes to evil and human suffering. They wouldn't generally blame God for evil nor say He is the cause of their suffering. They recognize that the world is the way it is, because us people screwed it up. We must rely on God to save us and keep us safe.

    Finally, I think that the majority of believers are on Boyd's side where it comes to evangelism. I think that Baptists in particular are evangelically motivated to lead others to Christ. They tend to see every lost person as a possible convert, instead of seeing them as someone who is going to believe whether they confront them or not.

    Please note that I am NOT saying that Calvinism or other forms of theology do not do these things...but if you were to ask "Joe Blow" Christian what he or she thinks about prayer, evangelism, evil, and divine guidance, what they say would fall right in line with Boyd's view.
     
  7. Nelson

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    If not in creedal belief, at least (and probably more importantly) in practice.

    I think the Reformed accusation of opposing beliefs having their origin in Greek or pagan philosophy does nothing to alleviate the difficulties in their traditions; their tradition is not free from philosophical origins, the paganistic view of fate when compared with predestination is one example.

    God's truth is found everywhere somewhere to one degree or another, more in some and less in others. If you read through religious history, even superficially, the fundamental idea of a god dying and being resurrected from the dead was not a new idea started from Christianity. (However, I believe the idea started from divine truth and got mish-mashed in with man's sinful ideas).

    There is the need to filter religious beliefs through Biblical revelation (to the best of one's abilities without throwing common sense out the window) and find out what fits and what doesn't.

    But others, understandably given the amount of uncertainty that there is in the world, may feel more secure with a "WatchTower Society" kind of view of religious belief.
     
  8. Daniel David

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    Greg Boyd and those who have followed his lead have at least been honest with Arminianism. Arminianism taken to its logical end produces open-theism.

    Clark Pinnock has tried to make a case for open theism being within the framework of evangelicalism. This however is unacceptable.

    Open Theism has reduced God to the best gambler in the universe. God knows the infinite possibilities of events, He just doesn't know what exactly will happen. Therefore, some of His "advice" will actually be demonstrated to be bad over time, so the O.T. advocates say.

    Why stop at foreknowledge, why not venture into limiting God's sovereignty, oh wait...

    Open Theism has created another God. As John Makujina of Central has rightly observed, O.T. is idolatry.

    Is man created in the image of God or is God made according to the whim of man???

    I unashamedly take the position that a person who knowingly holds this view is not saved.
     
  9. ScottEmerson

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    Not necessarily.

    Why?

    You're missing the idea that GOd is all wise. The future isn't COMPLETELY open in open theism. It is only partly open. OT advocates say nothing at all that God's "advice" will be bad. Where in the world do you come up with that? Do you have any sources?

    That's just it. It's possible that God can choose to limit his own sovereignty according to the open view - He's not becoming less sovereign. This idea of sovereignty comes from Hellenism more than it does the Bible, according to the open view.

    Now, don't you think you're going a bit too far here? Have you read any of their doctrine from their source?

    Open theists state quite specifically that man is created in the image of God. God just chooses to enter into a personal I-Thou relationship with his children, enabling them to make their own choices in the world He created.

    To be honest, to make yourself a judge of another doctrine in this way is to seriously break Christ's command not to judge others. Rebuking someone is one thing - to brazenly say that they are not saved because they don't believe like you is making yourself to be God. Perhaps you should be ashamed to make a comment like that.
     
  10. KenH

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    Open Theism is a heresy, clearly beyond the pale of orthodox Christianity, and clearly describing a being that is not the God of the Bible.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  11. ScottEmerson

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    Open Theism is a heresy, clearly beyond the pale of orthodox Christianity, and clearly describing a being that is not the God of the Bible.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
    </font>[/QUOTE]How do we define orthodox Christianity? By the Reformed standard? By the standard of the early church fathers? By the standard of the Bible?

    If the open view can be found to be unscriptural, then bring forth your arguments. If you call it heresy because it deals with things not understood by Calvinism, then bring those forth.

    Have you honestly read anything by Rice, Sanders, Hasker, or another person who holds to the open view? It seems that to call it a heresy without understand where they are coming from is again to judge, and place yourself as the accuser instead of Christ.
     
  12. KenH

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    Scott,

    Don't the Open Theists talk about God as having taken risks? Don't the Open Theists talk about God as not knowing for the certain what will be the future outcomes of his creatures actions? These alone make their belief ipso facto heresy.

    (Isaiah 46:8-10 NKJV) "Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. {9} Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, {10} Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'

    (Isaiah 48:5 NKJV) Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, Lest you should say, 'My idol has done them, And my carved image and my molded image Have commanded them.'

    (John 6:64 NKJV) "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

    (2 Thessolonians 2:13 NKJV) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  13. ScottEmerson

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    Calling it a risk is a misnomer. God does know certain things in the future, such as that Christ would die for the sins of man, that He would elect a group called the church, and so on. You may be thinking of process theology, which is different.

    "Counsel" is also able to be translated as "purpose." Open Theists believe that God knows His purpose, which stands true. That's what was declared from beginning.

    Verse three says, "“The former things I declared long ago, they went out from my mouth and I made them known; then suddenly I did them and they came to pass." He's talking about what it is that HE has done, not what man has done.

    In this case, complete definite divine foreknowledge is not necessary. All that is required was Christ’s perfect knowledge of inner motivations in the present.

    Open Theists read "you" not as individuals, just as the Arminians do - that the "you" refers to the church as a whole, in the same way that they read Romans 9-11. Is Arminianism a heresy as well?

    You're still coming very close (if you're not there) to a judging yourself, if not an outright condemning. There are people, you know, who would call Calvinism a heresy, because they "change" such words as "pas" to not all, and kosmos to not the whole world. They're no righter than you are.

    [ June 15, 2002, 12:58 AM: Message edited by: ScottEmerson ]
     
  14. KenH

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    Calvinism preaches up God and preaches down man. Open Theism preaches down God to man's level.

    Yes, I believe outright, full-blooded Arminianism and Pelagianism are heresies. You have to remember that the average "Joe Blow" and "Jane Blow" in the pew have never studied the Bible all that deeply for themselves to even characterize their belief according to historical parameters. I have, by God's mercy and grace, and that's why I, by God's mercy and grace, left Pelagianism, skipped right past Arminianism, and ended up in Calvinism as I believe that salvation is all about God and none about man. Saving man glorifies God's mercy and damning man glorifies God's justice. God is the Supreme Being of the universe and man is as nothing in his sight.(Daniel 4:35)

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  15. ScottEmerson

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    Calvinism preaches up God and preaches down man. Open Theism preaches down God to man's level.

    Yes, I believe outright, full-blooded Arminianism and Pelagianism are heresies. You have to remember that the average "Joe Blow" and "Jane Blow" in the pew have never studied the Bible all that deeply for themselves to even characterize their belief according to historical parameters. I have, by God's mercy and grace, and that's why I, by God's mercy and grace, left Pelagianism, skipped right past Arminianism, and ended up in Calvinism as I believe that salvation is all about God and none about man. Saving man glorifies God's mercy and damning man glorifies God's justice. God is the Supreme Being of the universe and man is as nothing in his sight.(Daniel 4:35)

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
    </font>[/QUOTE]Pelagianism is an outright heresy - Arminius said so himself. It is completely about man.

    Aminianism glorifies God in this way. He loves us so much and he is so sovereign that he decided to give man a choice whether or not to follow Him.

    Here's the problem - you set up a huge strawman in saying that Arminianism glorifies man. Show me from Arminius' work where man is glorified and God is not. You can't do it, because it's not there. It is clear that your characterizations of open theism and arminianism are simple caricatures, based seemingly on Calvinist literature. It's not based on your reading of the original works.

    That's why your "questions" never seem to be answered. Your "questions" don't even come close to explaining Arminianism or Open Theism.

    And I could just as easily say that I left Calvinism by God's grace and mercy.

    Arminians believe (whether you believe this or not is based on your own intelligence and wisdom) that man can do nothing to save himself. God came to save the world. Through Christ's death on the cross, He made it possible for us to become children of God. God is powerful enough to give man a choice in whether or not to join in a faith union with Christ. And THAT's what Arminians believe - not that man is somehow greater than God nor that God is any less than what the BIble says he is.

    If you choose not to believe that, you make me sad.
     
  16. KenH

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    Scott, do you not see the contradiction in the quote above. First you say that man can do nothing to save himself. Then you turn right around in the next sentence and say that God made it possible for us to become. Doesn't becoming involve doing something to save oneself? If God only made it possible to become, aren't you saying that man must do something to save himself?

    Isn't this the crux of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate - did God do it all or did God do His "part" and man has to do his "part?

    I am sorry I must make you sad, my friend, but I wouldn't rather make you sad than to tell you something that is not true.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken

    [ June 15, 2002, 06:51 PM: Message edited by: Ken Hamilton ]
     
  17. ScottEmerson

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    Aha! You're relying on human logic here to solve your quandry! That's your problem (as your other post so succinctly pointed out!)

    1. Man can do nothing to save himself. There is nothing within himself to be saved. Period. Man is a sinful creature, and as such, deserves to be eternally separated from God.
    2. God provided a sacrifice of Christ and offers this free gift to all.
    3. Man chooses the gift. Is he saving himself? Absolutely not! God is saving him! Man can do nothing to save himself. (Notice the reflexion - man is the subject and man is the object.)

    In salvation, God is always the subject and man is the object. God saves man.

    God clearly did his part. He did his part completely and for the whole world. He allows man to choose to enter into a faith relationship with him. It saddens him when people don't, and it makes him rejoice when people did.

    I'll say it again: In the Arminian framework of theology, man can do nothing to save himself.
     
  18. Pastor Larry

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    Not for John Sanders who entitled his book, “The God Who Risks.” This risk is something that has been promoted by arminians on this board and open theists. You limit the knowledge of God beyond what the text allows.

    I have yet to figure out how this is sovereignty. Am I sovereign because I give people choices?? That hardly fits any reasonable definition of sovereignty and certainly does not fit the description of God who is in the heavens doing whatever he pleases.

    It seems with your God there is no way to know anything about the future. God determined before the creation of world that Christ would come as a sacrifice for sins. Yet in your theology that might not have even been necessary. It just doesn’t make sense.
     
  19. Pastor Larry

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    Perhaps Scott you are missing what Ken is trying to point out. I have edited the following to make it clear.

    This is the contradiction. If man can do nothing to save himself, the nothing includes "choosing." But for you, man chooses and therefore does something. This puts salvation at least partly in man rather than in God. I do believe that man chooses to be saved; but that choice comes from the divinely, unilaterally enabled will.
     
  20. ScottEmerson

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    Which shows that you haven't read the book.

    Hardly. However, if you WERE sovereign, giving man a choice does not take that sovereignty away. Sovereignty can be defined as "Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state." Giving man a choice doesn't negate authority or rule. You're confusing sovereignty with all-controlling.

    and you continue to show that you know nothing about the open view, save what the Calvinist view says about it. You assume that open view people view the future as completely open. You are completely and absolutely wrong in that assumption.

    And I never said I was an open theist. I have been very careful to say, "Open theists believe...", not "I believe..."
     

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