Is Open Theism Christian Theism?
Dr. John Sanders
Introduction: Overview of the issues and summary of Open Theism.
Currently, in North American evangelicalism, there is a controversy regarding the nature of God and divine providence. The 1970’s witnessed the beginning of a prolonged reassessment of certain traditional divine attributes by some prominent evangelical philosophers. They reformulated, or even rejected, attributes such as impassibility and timelessness. In the 1980’s Clark Pinnock and a few evangelical theologians began to publicly criticize some of these same attributes of God. Since the publication of The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God in 1994, the debate has increased in intensity. Some defenders of “evangelical orthodoxy” have sought to discredit this position through the use of caustic rhetoric, labeling the view “Socinianism,” making charges of “heresy,” accusations that we are “creating God in the image of man,” and even a crusade in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Conference to rewrite the doctrinal statement of the denominations in order to exclude this position. 1 Why this strong reaction? What is so dangerous and threatening about this view of the divine nature? A recent editorial in Christianity Today highlighted this controversy and requested that classical theists and open theists begin a constructive dialogue.
To explore these issues and engage in dialogue I will first summarize the nature of God according to the openness perspective. Following this, the accusations against the view will be examined; particularly the charge that it is not “classical theism.” This will lead to a discussion clarifying the definition of classical theism, distinguishing it from other varieties of theism. It is hoped that this will provide a consistent nomenclature for the discussion surrounding the different versions of theism. Finally, I will conclude with a number of observations regarding the debate, most importantly, that Openness is Christian Theism. Hopefully, this paper will help clarify the terminology and the categories so that this debate can move forward in a constructive way.
Click Next Page to Continue