Open Theism thoughts…

Jen Lemen hooked me up with this article by Huntington College professor Dr. John Sanders, entitled: “On Heffalumps and Heresies: Responses to Accusations Against Open Theism” (PDF here). I had a chance to read through it this past weekend while traveling to/from Idaho, and I really enjoyed it for the most part. I’m still working through Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible, but Sanders’ article seemed to make a better case for open theism (Boyd’s book very well may get better…). Anyway, here is a brief summary of some of my thoughts, and you can download the Word file here to read a few more of my thoughts.

While I still need to finish Boyd’s God of the Possible, Sanders’ article seemed to be a more enticing appeal to begin to (re)think about open theism and its possibilities for theology today. I don’t think that open theism necessarily negates God’s sovereignty, in that God is still knowledgeable concerning the parts of the future that are available to God. God allows part of the future to remain open, and it is that part of the future that we become co-collaborators, co-(re)creators with God, in forming the future, in bringing about God’s kingdom here on Earth. This helps bring about a more dynamic, (inter)active example of Christianity, a Christianity where it does in fact matter what you do, how you live, because you are involved in bringing about God’s future here on Earth – we’re not just playing around and passively accepting whatever future God has decided ages ago – it’s still up for grabs. The future could be absolutely shitty or we could choose to, along with God, co-create a beautiful future, filled with the desires of ourselves and the desires of God.

This, I think, is appealing. This I think will draw people to God. This, I think, could be revolutionary for those who are willing to be open to new ideas about who God is, what God does, and what God desires for God’s Creation.


  1. says


    I read you repsonses, and I got to say I’m not convinced you appreciate the error contained in process theology or openness. It’s new, it’s trendy and I dare say some emergent leaders will embrace it – but it’s alien to emergent theology as I see it (if emergent theology has some continuity with the old and ancient, but it could (unfairly) piggyback on ’emergent’ theolgy and get accepted through the back door, unfortunately – especially where folk are not discerning and studious. When you say ‘both positions challenge traditional Western views on God’s immutability’, you infer that opennes may be more accurate, but (even) eastern orthodoxy wouldn’t certainly agree with it, and so maybe reading the Church Fathers would be more appropriate.

    You also say, ‘The future could be absolutely shitty’ and ‘the World pisses me off’. These words don’t upset me, but do they convey some deep meaning that other ‘nicer’ words couldn’t convey or are they said just for effect. Not impressed.

    But it’s great to see you searching for the truth – keep searching, please. Yours, a fellow traveller.

  2. says

    If this is the case,then the LORD should have never created man. He wouldn’t have had the hassle of us convincing Him into changing His mind all the time. All this false teaching does is bring the God of the universe down to the level of Greek mythology i.e. capricious gods who are constantly involved in man’s intrigues. You’re statement on challenging traditional western views is problematic. Since when are these views only western? If you would bother to read the early fathers and beyond,you would discover that these are traditional “biblical” views since before Constantine. I am so tired of the liberal, pomo reasonings that if you read Scripture and hold them to be immutable truth, then you must be conservative,western, fundamentalist.This along with Jonathan’s comments on your use of language, lead me to believe that you embrace certain beliefs only if they are what you perceive to be, anti-establishment and to piss people off. Ooops! Did I say that? What the emergent folk need to understand is ,that the world is not their playground to do whatever they wish with.

  3. says

    Gosh, how could I not reply to these comments. A few things:

    *First of all, Chris you wrote: “If you would bother to read the early fathers…” – well, I implore you and Jonathan both, if you’re going to comment on my response to that article, why don’t you at least read it carefully enough to know what I wrote and what I quoted others saying. You both commented on the line that said: “both positions challenge traditional Western views on God’s immutability” – I like this line, but I didn’t even write it, my buddy Dwight F. did. So, please read a bit more carefully before you call a statement that I didn’t even write “problematic.”

    *Jonathan, you wrote “it’s new, it’s trendy…” therefore, you’re inferring that new/trendy=false/evil. I am aware that we can’t accept every new thing that pops up, every new theology or belief-system, or what. We need to keep in mind, and have respect for the things of old, the ancient-things, the Desert Fathers, the saints of past, etc. But I’m also not going to fall into the trap of assuming that anything that is considered ‘new’ is wrong and we should be leery of. Is open theism a new thing? Some aspects of it may be, others may have been around for longer. Because it’s a ‘newer’ idea, am I going to discount it or just assume that it’s wrong…not at all.

    *Jonathan, sorry the ‘colorful’ language (which is quite mild, by the way) bothers you. Well, you said they don’t upset you, but they must have to some degree or else you wouldn’t have mentioned it. Do keep in mind this is my little space on the internet, and you do have the choice as to whether you come back or not.

    *Chris P. Ahhh. I’m just going to email you some stuff, because I don’t want to keep taking up comments on my blog discussing our differences.

    *But I will say this: I just straight up disagree with you. If God was going to have no inter-relationality (I like that word Dwight!), was going to have planned, or cause to happen, or have foreknowledge of, or…I think those are better cases for why God should never have created humanity. But a God who creates humanity, and is excited about loving them, suffering with them, being involved in their lives, interacting (both ways) with them, teaching them, learning from them & creating a future with them…yes!

    *And lastly, Chris P., you do take a step almost too far when you begin to question (quite pointedly) the motivations for my theological quests and reasons for looking into beliefs and holding possibly new(er) beliefs. Do I hold or think about holding views simply because they piss people off and because they are anti-establishment? No. Do I want to be anti-establishment…? Do I want to fight the man (i.e. School of Rock)? Well, if the establishment is small, limited, narrow, if it tries to tell me more about who is “out” than anything else, if it chokes and oppresses the voices of minorities, if it doesn’t take into account a new era of advancement in all areas of life…etc., then yes, I do want to be an anti-establishment-type of Christian. And if these views piss you off Chris, then I remind you as well that God has given you plenty of free-will to choose whether or not you come to pomomusings. God has not determined, pre-ordained, foreknown (whatever!) that you come here and get pissed off at my views.

    Anyway, back to open theism. Anyone else have thoughts?

  4. says

    i think chris p. has been foreordained before time to be a chronic contrarian on this blog, and that the predestined comments are fated to endlessly torment and distract adam from now until eternity. not to mention his readers.

  5. says

    Thank you for the link to the paper — I’m looking forward to reading it.

    One thing that always makes me laugh (and sometimes grimace) is that process theology advocates a God of love, and emphasizes how acts of love are co-creative. How can that possibly be a bad thing? The people I know that embrace emerging theologies are people of amazing faith and consistently act with compassion, love and mercy. Is that something God frowns upon? Exploring emerging theologies is the ultimate way to experience God in all of God’s God-ness. Again, how can that be a bad thing? I celebrate that journey, not condemn it.

    Glad to meet you along the journey, Adam.

  6. says

    Hi Adam

    I’m not saying that new equals evil, but I am saying that in quite a few cases new equals arrogance and sometimes error, as if 21st century man has discovered some new spiritual understanding that people of earlier times were unaware of. It can be error if wisdom that went before is unheeded, or forgotten or even unknown by some of us today. That’s where balanced research and study comes in. That’s where deep study of the Scripture is needed at this time of transition. Otherwise, what rod do you use for comparison. Opinion? I hope not!

    I think you’re right about the various ‘traps’. It would be wrong not to consider new things, just as it is wrong to accept wholesale ‘old’ things. However, I’ve detected in some emergent leaders a distinct lack of historical understanding, a lack of desire to take on board ‘old’ wisdom, a distinct dislike of wrestling with Scripture and an over-willingness to embrace the new because it’s ‘sugar-coated’. In those cases, their opinion seems to be elevated above Scripture.

    Your colourful language doesn’t upset me. Really, it doesn’t. I only mentioned it because I just find it defeats and minimises what you say.

    I do hear what you say when you wrote, ‘you do have the choice as to whether you come back or not.’ I guess correction and contrary opinions is alien to you and unwelcome, and with so many people reading your blog one guy who upsets you can be glibly dismissed. No doubt all your friends who agree with you will tell you what you want to hear! And so, even though iron sharpen iron and is therefore useful and productive, I won’t come back. GBY

  7. jason says


    You should check out Sanders’ book. The God Who Risks. I think that’s the name of it. I’ve read bits and pieces. It’s well written.


  8. says

    i was thinking that open theism is certainly the more attractive option for god. otherwise god would get pretty bored of our worship if he knew what songs we
    were going to sing next. just think we could suprise god ;-)p.s. adam keep up the good posting and reading – and don’t let the bastards get you down…

  9. says

    Adam –

    I’ve read The God Who Risks and came away from that book feeling much as you do – excited about the possibilities and the chance for a partnershp with God. But ultimately I rejected open theism for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the absolute lack of any historical support throughout church history. It seems you are taking Chris P’s and Johnathan’s suggestion to read the Church Fathers a bit lightly, and while you have given a nod towards “respecting the things of old” I do wonder if you’ve actually read them? In this questioning/searching phase of life that you are in, I think you would be doing both yourself and your current & future congregations a huge disservice if you did not inform yourself of all sides of a debate.

    Now that being said – why is there such a negative attitude towards contrarian opinions on your blog? Yes, it is your space and you are free to say anything you want, and as a regular reader, I would encourage you to do just that. While I certainly don’t agree with everything you say, I think you’re contributing to a valuable conversation, but one that should welcome critique & challenge. The early church was forged in the fires of Roman persecution and was the better for it – if the emerging church cannot artfully and lovingly answer the concerns of other Christians then it cannot and should not survive.

  10. says

    Nathan, thanks for your comments. I did read some of the Church Fathers (and Desert Fathers) in undergrad and I expect that I will read even more at seminary, so not to worry, I am not taking them lightly. I totally agree, it is important (albeit necessary) to be informed of all sides of a debate, and that is something that I would like to do, esp. with open theism/process theology. I’ve only just begun to get into the topic recently, and have read just a little bit – so this is where I’m at right now with it.

    As to contrarian opinions on my blog, I’ve said it before, that I welcome them! This is not an issue for me, although some are reading it as such. If I had such an issue with that, I wouldn’t allow comments, or I’d simply delete any comment I didn’t like, or I’d ban a commenter (which I thought about doing to Chris P., but then realized that would completely go against the spirit of dialogue and yes, WOULD have made me out to be someone who can’t handle any dissenter). I just don’t see the need to bring up unnecessary side-issues (the language I use on my blog). Chris P. has been around for quite awhile commenting, and we disagree. Plain and simple. We come at our theology and ideas from completely different foundations (or lack of), and really, I’m okay with it. What I’m not okay with is the way in which his comments come across, some of the hurtful things he’s said in the past and how he assumes that he’s God’s watchman to steer me in the right direction (he quoted Ezekiel 33.1-9 to me in this post…that’s simply ridiculous). But you know what? I’m over that.

    Dissenters come on in! You’re welcome here at pomomusings. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

  11. says

    to quote jonathan..

    “However, I’ve detected in some emergent leaders a distinct lack of historical understanding, a lack of desire to take on board ‘old’ wisdom, a distinct dislike of wrestling with Scripture and an over-willingness to embrace the new because it’s ‘sugar-coated’. In those cases, their opinion seems to be elevated above Scripture.”

    Thanks for commenting here. I’m enjoying the conversation..just a couple of questions/thoughts..

    – Might I ask for some specifics on emergent leaders who have a distinct lack of historical understanding? And who decides what constitutes a lacking in this area? How much is good enough? I think we need to be careful not to equate those who “lack understanding” with those “who disagree with our understanding.” Reminds me of how the SBC (and Im baptist) conservatives/fundamentalists (depending on which side one was one)described the moderates/liberals during the SBC controversy…

    – A dislike of wrestling with scripture? It seems to me that this is one of the main things the whole emergent movement is all about. We want to get back to taking scripture seriously, to wrestling with interpretations we never gave any voice to before (feminist, womanist, post-liberal, proccess, etc.). I guess at some point there is danger of placing our “opinions” over scripture, however that might look. On the other hand, we must remember that there is no talking (and even no reading) scripture without interpretation (opinions). Once again, we must make sure that “refusal to take scripture seriously” doesnt mean “not agreeing with our own interpretation of scripture.”


  12. shane says

    I heard something once that I liked. -” I can get behind an infallible text, but not your ability to interpret and understand it infallibly.” Ultimately this position puts God at the center of understanding instead of us, which, I think is where it should be. It is my opinion, that those who fight over this issue fail to recognize their own fallibility in understanding a God who is “wholly other”.

  13. says

    Adam –

    Glad to hear dissenters are welcome and that you are reading the thought of our past-brethren. I’ve recently started diving into the Church Fathers after getting a great gift of 38 volumes of their works and am discovering the rich treasure trove that it is, especially in the parallels between our culture and the culture the first church was emerging into. One question that has always popped into my head with church in general, and the emergent church on occassion is “why are we trying to re-invent the wheel?” There are a lot of answers just waiting for us to rediscover in the lives and work of earlier Christians.

    Mark –

    Ironically, I think Shane (absolutely no offense intended, by the way) aptly answers your first point. Historically speaking, the church did not rely on any single person’s ability to interpret and understand the biblical witness. For that they relied upon the pronouncements of the Ecumenical Councils and the consensus of the Church Fathers. There was never a reliance on *my* or *your* interpretation of the text; only what the church produced. There was simply the church being guided into “all truth” by the Holy Spirit. That we have become our own authorities is a direct result of the Protestant experiment and a fundamental departure from historic Christianity.

  14. says

    Shane –

    I don’t see how preventing anyone – including yourself – from relying on an objectively true interpretation of the text is putting the focus on God. I assume you agree that there is an objectively true standard and are only questioning our ability to comprehend or determine that (please correct me if I am wrong), but how is that ambiguity God-centering and God-honoring? And how exactly does open theism, which clearly elevates humanity to the position of co-creators of the future, not violate that God-centered ideal?

  15. says

    Sorry Adam,I just couldn’t stay out of this. :-)
    Apparently your admonition to be respectful only applies to me and not to Gareth and his “bastards” reference or Jen’s mockery. We only mock what we have no understanding of. I have never used foul language or called people names here. My sin of disrespect is to quote the Bible. What a mean spirited thing to do.The ec gives no emphasis to scripture at all. They pick and choose whatever fits the current thing. If you actually study the history of mankind, you will see that what is called post-modern and emerging is not new in the least.
    This stuff is as old and older than Moses. To Shane, what good is an infallible scripture that we can’t understand, i.e. how do you know it is infallible if it isn’t revealed to us as such? We can blow off everyone’s interpretations as flawed.
    A scripture that is infallible but useless is no gift. Understanding comes from GOD, righteousness comes from GOD, faith comes from GOD revelation comes from GOD. The scriptures are given as confirmation that what we see and do is of GOD.The ec is gnostic to the core,as is the charismatic movement, Catholicism and eastern orthodoxy. We do not possess anything or do anything that is good. What post-modernism elevates and worships is the “collective” man It is latent marxist-hegelian philosophy operating under the guise of JESUS. We “co-work” with GOD we are not co-creators. The LDS church loves open theism as it is in total agreement with the god-man doctrine that they teach. Ultimately the emergent church ignores the issue of the sovreignty of GOD, as all things and all people exist solely for Him and His good pleasure.He doesn’t exist for the fulfillment of man’s destiny. The only destiny that matters is Christ’s. The only thing that goes into eternity with us is worship. Although eternity is another concept post-modernists seem to have trouble comprehending.In closing, I don’t see any of that famous emergent love and concern for Jonathan,who obviously left disillusioned with all of you. Adam, Ezekiel 33 applies to more than just you or me. Your arguement is much like Shane’s in that since we are all fallible, no one is able to do the prophetic or understand scripture. This is a famous arguement of the political left and one of the most disingenous, i.e. we cannot proclaim right or wrong, black and white as we are all imperfect. This shows a complete lack of understanding of why HE came.
    Anarchy is not a solution and is not what JESUS taught.

  16. Jason Leary says


    AMOS 7:3

    ‘The Lord repented for this it shall not be ‘ .

    It doesn’t get any plainer than that .

    That people are objecting to open theism in droves on the internet and calling it contrary to Christianity is quite weird, and bizarre. It is weird that any one should dislike the theology known as open theism .

    Just because weird , crummy fruitcake theologians like Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin believed that there was only one future to God, doesn’t mean we should …and doesn’t mean that we should spin the interpretation of the Bible to claim that any Bible verse that doesn’t fit the theology of Augustine and/or John Calvin must be referred to as “hyperbole”, “anthropomorphic expression” “speaking to us in human terms” and other damage control theological gymnastics .

    Judaism (with few exceptions) –which is the religion of Jesus–(for Jesus in John 4: 22 tells the woman Salvation is of the Jews) does NOT have that doctrine that God’s particular plans are unchanging . Judaism –if you read Martin Buber and other Jewish theologians–conceives of God as one who is willing to negotiate, to receive respectful arguments, to alter particular plans –thougth the ultimate Agenda of God as to the Qualities He wishes to promote is unchanging .

    Furthermore, the best versions of open theism . One can be an open theist and still hate the ideology of relativism/postmodernism. I am very much a supporter of moral absolutism (though moral absolutism of a nuanced sort) and I hate postmodernism with a vehemence that is off the proverbial charts ! In fact, I cringe at the thought of open theism getting coop-ted (and tarnished) by getting associated with postmodernist theology –which is a separate affair.

    Jesus had a view of the relationship between God and time that was in keeping with open theism .In the parable of the vineyard Jesus used the story of a vineyard to explain God’s relationship with Israel , and used the Lord of the Vineyard to symbolize God . In the parable of the vineyard the husbandmen are the leaders of Israel . God after sending servants (the prophets) to receive the fruits of the vineyard from the hubandmen ,and watching the husbandmen kill those prophets, God :the Lord of the Vineyard sends his Son (which in the parable symbolizes: Jesus) .

    The question is: Do the Fundamentalists and others who reject open theism think that the sentence that Jesus attributed in Luke 20:13 to the Lord Of The Vineyard:God… is somehow to be interpreted as a sarcastic statement when he says,

    “I will send my beloved son: it may be that they will reverence him when they see him” ?

    Of course, I anticipate that some may reply , “but that ‘s a parable/it uses figurative language”…However, even with a parable if a parable is fully communative there must be a linear correspondence between the symbols of the parable and the concepts being expressed by those symbols .

    There are a number of Bible verses that Fundamentalists and wholesale Calvinists try to spin the interpretation of as somehow being against open theism . There is one that at first glance could look somewhat plausibly like it were against open theism. I want to in this present post expalin how these verses should NOT be interpreted as being against open theism , and those that presume such verses are against open theism do NOT have explicit support in the wording of those Bible verses to interpret them that way.

    Before I do address those verses it is good to ask a question and make some clarifications first .

    To those who try to claim that the references to God repenting of some (tenative) action in the Bible is mere “anthroporphic expression”, or “God speaking to us in our time frame” blah, blah,blah lets take a look at Exodus 32:9-14 (KING JAMES VERSION) where God sees that the Israelites are worshipping the golden calf while in Sinai and God is, indeed, totally right to be angry at them for their ungratitude towards them . In Exodus 32 God tells Moses of His original plan to destroy those Israelites who have worshipped the golden calf. Moses then presents arguments on the Israelites behalf and God does not carry out the tenative destruction. In Exodus 32:10, God first announces the plan of destruction to Moses ,

    ‘Now let me then alone and let my anger wax hot against that my wrath may wax hot against them and consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation ‘.

    A number of Fundamentalists have claimed that God was testing Moses and that God wanted Moses to respond by interceeding on behalf of the Israelites to try and get God to abandon the plan to destroy them. On that particular point I agree with them. However, these Fundamentalists go on to take an attitude that is very unclear as to how the free will of Moses relates to how God believed Moses would respond .

    Here is a good question to ask those Fundamentalists who reject open theism.. about Exodus 32:9-14 :WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED TO THE ISREALITES MENTIONED IN EXODUS 32 IF MOSES HAD * NOT * PRESENTED ARGUMENTS TO GOD TO SPARE THE ISRAELITES ?

    If Moses had responded to the original announcement by God in Exodus 32 that God was going to destroy the Isrealites by saying to God, “Be it as thou will”, then what would have God done concerning those Israelites ?

    That is a question that those who reject open theism should answer *directly* and answering it directly means NOT swerving the specific focus of the question by giving a broad, generalized “Big Picture” sort of response to the question , that *glosses over* the specific focus of the question !

    Let’s see if any of the Fundamentalists and/or wholesale Calvinists can directly answer the specific/narrow focus of that question without giving a broad , “Big Picture” explanation that swerves the specific focus of the question . (“Big Picture” sorts of responses that gloss over the specific details with lateral thinking are something I’ve noticed many Fundamentalists AND postmodernists have in common) !

    If God was testing Moses to see if Moses would present respectful arguments to God so that God would not go ahead with the destruction of the Israelites , then that means that God does NOT want a blind , unquestioning sort of obediance. God does desire obediance, but He does NOT desire a blind , unquestioning sort of obediance. To maintain that God wants a blind unquestioning sort of obediance, as many Fundamentalists and wholesalae Calvinists seem to suggest , is insulting to God. The God of Judaism and Christianity revealed in many Bible verses such as Exodus 32:9-14 is a God who is willing to negotiate and engage in dialectic with humans .

    The website known as “the Christian Apologetics and Research Minsistry” which tries to dowplay Exodus 32:9-14 has an article that makes the argument that God was wanting to interceed on behalf of the Isrealites as Jesus interceeds to God on behalf of the redeemed today . That argument has a lot of good merit, however, why don’t they take a look at the ramifications of that argument?

    If we as Christians are to have the attitude of Moses and Jesus, and interceed on behalf of others, then shouldn’t we then follow their example and interceed and pray to God that the people who are cast into outer darkness where there is ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ then are let back in to God’s covenant at a later date? If a person says, “we shouldn’t pray for those things”, then I would ask, ‘ why shouldn’t we , pray and interceed for those who are “dammed” ‘? If Moses interceeded for people who had fallen from grace with God then shouldn’t we follow the policy of Moses .

    Some I anticipate may try to interpret the Gospel of John chapter 17: verse 9 as being against praying that God may offer remediation against those that have been dammned by God .

    In John 17:9 Jesus states in prayer to the Father, ‘—I pray not for the world, but for them thou hast given me:for they are thine ‘ . Yet it is wrong to presume that the statement in John 17:9 where Jesus says, ‘I pray not for the world’ , should be taken to mean that Jesus is saying He doesn’t want to pray that the whole of humanity be blessed. Instead the more plausible interpretation of what Jesus meant when He said ‘I pray not for the world’ in John 17:9 is that He wasn’t praying for the corrupt world social system . The word “translated” into English as ‘world’ in the gospels does not always referred to mankind or to the created universe, but can also refer to the corrupt social and political system of worldly affairs; people seeking fame and prestige –what is called “the social world”

    The gospels including Matthew and Luke contrast the Kingdoms of the world which Jesus was offered during the time he was tempted on the mountain and which he turned down . Given the premise that God’s will is ultimate benevolence towards all people since God is Infinitely Good , it makes more sense to be suspicious of those who interpret the term ‘world’ in the statement of Jesus in John 17:9 as referring to mankind .

    Another question that I would ask the Fundamentalists and wholesale Calvinists who reject open theism is ,how do they reconcile the notion (where they claim that there is only one possible Future to God ) with the references in the book of Revelation to the possibility of persons having their names ‘blotted out of the book of life’ (such as is referred to in Revelation 3:5) . Fundamentalists tend to take much of the imagery in the book of Revelation literally . If the book of life is a literal manuscript that occupies tangible space (and *not* symbolic) then I would like to ask the Fundamentalists : why would The Lord put someone’s name in the book of life if they He foreknew that there was only one Future possible which is a future where He would just have to erase it? Why wouldn’t God only put those names in the book of life which He foreknew He wouldn’t have to erase ? Is every person’s name put in the book of life at birth and at some time later the names of those people that cause great disapproval from God then erased , leaving only those that—given the premise of only one future– won’t ?

    If one takes the premise that the book of life is a tangible book that occupies literal space, then given a literalistic and futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation, the people who have their names erased from the book of life , wouldn’t see any sort of notation in the book of life that their names had once been in there, thus what purpose would be the act of writing someone’s name in the book of life IF God knows in advance that there is only one future : the future where that person’s name gets erased ? Consider the following . Someone has their name written in the book of life. Later, that person has their name erased from the book of life ,after they very greatly offend God. If having their name once at an earlier point in time does NOT benefit that same person– who later has their name erased from the book of life– then *for whose benefit* was the original act of *temporarily* putting their name in the book of life done ?

    One clarification in regard to open theism –that should be presented– is that there ARE open theists who believe that not only does God have a *tenative* –yet PERFECT knowledge of the future , there are open theists that believe God may temporarily from time to time suspend direct knowledge of some events in the present. I would argue that He would most likely *temporarily* block some information from the Forefront of His Awareness , so as better to preserve a disposition of Hope that in the next split second (or split moment of some kind) the created beings might choose to do better .

    It is important to clarify that insight , especially since many Fundamentalists on the Internet who are opposed to open theism (such as Ashton Wilkins ) have been guilty of a straw man accusation against open theists. Ashton Wilkins at his website which denounces open theism alleges that open theists have painted themselves into a theological corner because many open theist have argued that God does have exhaustive knowledge of what events go on in the present tense. He as argued that this provides grounds for claiming that there is somehow a dilemma for the open theist who must consider whether to maintain the notion that God doesn’t know the present thoughts that someone is thinking in order to interpret the references in the Bible to God testing someone to ‘know what is in their heart’ as literal.

    However, a case should be made to avoid what is called the fallacy of insufficient options..that God may temporarily block some information out of His direct Awareness , so as to have hope then that an investigation He conducts, will then reveal that people will repent in the next few moments, of some bad activity they are doing . A case can plausibly made that in Genesis 18:21, God was temporarily blocking out full knowledge of the extent of sin in Sodom and Gommorrah until after the angels He sent went through the cities and conducted their investigation .

    Genesis 18:21 quotes God as saying (through the angels) about the investigation about to be conducted in Sodom and Gommorrah ,

    ‘I wil go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto to me, and if not I will know ‘.

    Thus not all open theists have NOT all painted themselves into a corner , after all !

    Fundamentalists often claim that they use the practice of ‘interpreting scripture with scripture’ . Yet they apparently expect us to believe that the particular way to interpret scripture with scripture is to use those scriptures that they ALREADY PRESUME to interpret as being against open theism to interpret those scriptures which refer to God as ‘repenting’ or ‘relenting’ . Why NOT instead, do it the other way around: and use the scriptures that refer to God as ‘relenting’ or ‘repenting’ as the refence point for interpreting those other scriptures that Fundamentalists *interpret* as being against open theism .

  17. Jason Leary says


    Continuing from the previous message post above.( There are, by the way, a few typos in the message shown above .In one sentence I accidently left out the word Moses, and the flow of the sentence got thrown off accidently) .

    Before I present alternatives as to how the various Bible verses that the people who are against open theism claim supports the case against open theism , I’d like to make another clarification regarding open theism —in such, that a more optimal version of open theism should *not* be mis- characterized as crudely as often is .

    Also as a briefer note I’d also like to state , that as an open theist , I do NOT disparage the influence of Greek Philosophy on Christianity as some other open theists have done. The problem is NOT Greek philosophy —after all some of the New Testament books such as the Gospel according to John show the influence of concepts used by the Greek philosophers such
    the concept of the Logos–which the gospel of John (chapter 1 verse 1) that uses in the New Testamet Greek manuscripts —and is loosely “translated” by the term ‘word’ in English . The problem is how weird theologians like Augustine of Hippo and, later: John Calvin who carries on some of the theology promoted by Augustine misconstrued elements of Greek philosophy and incorporated them into an ideology that was *different* from what the Greek philosophers taught .

    The position of open theism has been crudely and simplistically phrased by those who are against when those who are against open theism say anything like, “open theism teaches that God does not know the Future” .

  18. says

    Adam, thanks for writing this post. I have been wanting to know more about open theism. I tried to download your thoughts but it did not work. Could you possibly email the document to me if you have time? Thanks! Adele

  19. Jason Leary says


    There is a glaring typo in the third from the last paragraph last message, I posted . I meant to post that ‘the text of the gospel did NOT say it was impossible for Peter to have chosen other than to deny Jesus .’

    Instead I accidently typed “did not say it was impossible for Jesus not to deny Jesus .”

  20. says

    I don’t find postmodernist “narrative theology” to be a proble, This is what i subscribe to. I am not mentally lazy and weird in subscribing to this theology. I am not a linear thinker and one cannot depend entorely on reason when presenting the Bible. It is ok to have ambiguity. We as humans cannot possibly claim to know and understand everything considering we are finite, limited, and struggle with finding the language to express God and His ways. God is knowable and mysterious, which infers to me ambiguity. I question , I doubt, I( have a vibrant faith.

    you say, “Hence, an good version of the open theist approach does help to provide an evaluative framework for seeing Bible verses that may have seemed puzzling as involving interpretations that above all defend the Idea of the moral perfection of God in a way that is analytical . It helps to safeguard against the seductive danger of those theologies that tolerate ambiguity .” What is suductively dangerous about ambiguity?

  21. Abolutist says

    Dear Adele ,

    We MUST depend on entirely on reason when presenting the Bible ! Reason is consistency of thought. Consistency is always the right approach . Ambiguity betrays value –it makes people have an approach to value and truth that is anti-climatic /on again/off again —NOT accurate . The attitude of tolerating ambiguity settles often for a “close enough” murky outlook that is NOT fully accurate .

    The claim that we as humans ‘cannot be expected to know and understand everything because we are finite .’ Actually “finite minds” can handle infinity –mathematicians often do calculations involving infinite sets . The cliche that has been around for many decades now that CLAIMS that “a finite mind cannot understand infinity” –has been shown to be false in pure mathematics and other fields .

    True faith must include NOT merely a partial acceptance of the value of reason . True faith does NOT accept any propositions about theology that are against deductive reason . And by reason I’m NOT referring to physical law . Physical law is only inductive and does *not* carry as much weight as deductive reason .On the other hand, deductive reason is based on *internal consistency* and avoiding internal fallacies . Deductive reason is always right as a method of thought .

    Faith –according to the epistle to the Hebrews–‘is the substance of things hoped for/the evidence of things not seen .’ . Faith (given that definition) thus requires *evidence* . The word ‘faith’ should never be applied to a frame of mind that tolerates any ambiguity .

    It is interesting to note that the author of Isaiah presents God as working through reason –NOT working through gut feelings –but working through reason in Isaiah 1:18 . in Isaiah 1:18 Yahweh (God) is quoted as saying to Isaiah ,

    ‘Come and let us reason together.’

    That verse indicates that God DOES communicate with man through Reason –and furthermore, through the same reason that humans are familiar with . The fact that the verse has God saying to a human person named Isaiah indicates that God shares the same frame of reference as that person . God saying to a human person Isaiah,

    ‘Come let us reason together’

    indicates that God does NOT have some mysterious, so-called “different kind of reason”.

    Otherwise IF God had a different kind of reasoning, that was different from what people were familar with, there could NOT be the common frame of reference that would enable communication between God and man to take place, in the first place .

    ‘Come and let us reason together’ , indicates that the purposes of God are NOT inherently mysterious .

    Some may, I anticipate, who seek to claim that God is inherently mysterious might then try to claim St.Paul’s letter to the Romans: chapter 11 verse 33, as somehow being in support of that doctrine , yet those verses could be interpreted just as plausibly to indicate that God is more resourceful at finding more means to achieve the ends He seeks–*instead* of the interpretation that maintains the purposes of God are somehow mysterious .

    St.Paul’s letter to the Romans verse 11:33 states ,

    ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are his judgements and his ways past finding out ‘ .

    At a quick glance, that may look like a verse in support of the doctrine that God is somehow mysterious , however, it could be just as plausibly, or maybe, even more plausibly, interpreted as meaning that God has many more techniques than we have realized in store to achieve His knowable goals . It does NOT have to be interpreted as somehow meaning that Paul was claiming (in that verse) that the goals …the purposes of God– are somehow inherently mysterious . Instead, it could be interpreted to mean that God has more than one technique to achieve these Goals. However, that does NOT mean that even the many techniques that God has involve anything like *pre*-allowing wicked actions /tragedy before it happens . Instead , it means that God is able to *select from a greater range of strategies* for handlng the problems of history then people have ever imagined . But even that range has boundaries of another sort–the boundaries being *internal consistency* .

    Deductive reasoning being based on internal consistency is always the right method of thought . Internal contradiction–or equivocation– is always wrong no matter how often people out there want to take contracdictory propositions and jam them together and call these contradictions with fancy misnomers like so-called “paradox” . Equivocation in doctrine is always wrong . Straight/linear thinking is the consistent way to think…and rigid consistency is always the right approach .

    Truth is to be found in the specifics , NOT in glossing over thin distinctions for the sake of the so-called “Big Picture” .

    The whole is the sum of its parts—NOT greater then the sum of its parts . Accepting ambiguity is the cop-out, which settles for that which falls short and *fails* to seek consistency .

    It is good though, Adele, that you have an inquistive mind and, hence , show curiosity about such topics , I admire that about you , just the same .

  22. says

    Dear Absolutist,

    We are just going to have to agree to disagree. You are not going to persuade me as I won’t persuade you. I do not agree with you about reason and mystery. I do not think there is anything wrong with ambiguity, doubting, and asking questions. We are finite and cannot claim to know all about God. To me, this is pride. Also, the Word is contextual to the people,. culture, circumstances of that time and we cannpt make black and white doctrine out of it.

    Thanks for the dialogue ands kind words. Blessings to you on your journey!


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