We looked at one point of agreement and many points of disagreement with Open Theists in the last part of our series.
Open Theists believe there are two “God models” to consider: “Nurturant God and Authoritative God.” Author and Open Theist John Sanders wrote that “The openness of God model coheres with Nurturant model.” What he means is that Open Theists move the Nature of God to the back of the theological room to make way for human responsibility to take center stage. Basically, human will trumps God’s will.
Don’t believe I’m understanding Open Theism correctly? Here’s some of what Sanders wrote:
- God entrusts responsibility to us and thus has faith in us.
- God entrusts responsibility to us and does not know for sure what we will do with this responsibility.
- God creates without assurance that things will go exactly as desired.
- Much of the future is indefinite and open so not even God has a “God’s-eye view of the future.”
- God places responsibility on us by making us co-creators of the future. We are entrusted with “the possibility of forging a more responsible future” (Dik Allen).
Small god, Big GOD
Sanders has what I call a “small view of a small god.” The god he describes doesn’t sound at all like the God I see in the Bible. It’s more like a man-made god that fits man’s narrative–his wishes and desires. The god of Open Theism is a comfortable god for humans. They don’t have to do much because god is too small to make them do what they don’t want to do. The god of Open Theism entrusts responsibility to humans and has faith that they’ll do the right thing.
William Hasker, in the book God in an Open Universe: Science, Metaphysics, and Open Theism, wrote that we are in need of a “bigger God.” I found that interesting given his promotion of Open Theism.
If we agree that these are indeed the qualities of a big person and a great leader, and that our understanding of the character of God should be modeled on them, then I submit that there is one particular way of conceiving God that best fills the bill. This is the view that has recently come to be known as ‘open theism.’ According to open theism, God has deliberately chosen to people his world with individuals possessing a real, though limited, independence. Rather than micro-managing their lives by determining everything for them in advance, he allows them genuine scope for making their own decisions, for good or for ill. In doing this God takes important risks. Not the risk that the overall order of his world will collapse; he is wise, powerful, and well able to prevent that. But he risks that persons will rebel against his good purposes for them, with tragic results for themselves and others. God in an Open Universe: Science, Metaphysics, and Open Theism, William Hasker, Dean Zimmerman, Thomas Jay Oord, Editors, Pickwick Publications, 2011
Hasker wrote of the need for a “bigger God,” yet presented instead a “small god” that fits neatly inside the box of Open Theism. Hasker, quoted in an interview in 2013, said that God is “perfect in knowledge,” but doesn’t know what might happen in the future because “there really are alternative possibilities for the future, different ways that the future really can turn out.” Hasker said that God knows the different ways things could turn out and “has the wisdom and power and the resourcefulness to deal appropriately, with any of the things that might happen.”
I found Hasker’s statement there and in other interviews and writings interesting from the aspect of using an orthodox statement about God — “God is perfect in knowledge” — then giving it a definition and explanation contrary to orthodox understanding. It’s a type of theological “bait and switch.”
Another leader in the Open Theism movement, Thomas Jay Oord, believes that “God’s expectations about the future are often partly dependent upon creaturely actions” and “God takes calculated risks, because God is not all-controlling.” That is a fatal flaw in Open Theism. God takes no “calculated risks” because He determined everything from “before time began.” Based on what Jesus and His apostles said about God’s purpose and determination “before time began,” we see that Open Theism is wrong in its beliefs concerning God’s Nature and Nurture.
Confusion or Heresy?
I want to be as gracious as possible in my comments about Open Theists. I think they are confused at best and heretical at worst. I don’t use the word “heretic” quickly or easily. It’s a serious accusation to say that someone is a heretic and false teacher. I believe what Open Theists teach about God is false, so the question is whether they are confused and can be shown a light that will help them change their thinking and teaching or if they are so entrenched in false beliefs that they actually are false teachers and shouldn’t be allowed near a group of Christians.
The fact that so many of the leaders in Open Theism have debated the subject with Christians with opposing views for so many years (even decades for some of them) makes me wonder if they’ve already rejected the light given them. Are they just confused or are they heretics? We’ll follow the apostolic model of “testing the spirits” to see what we can learn about that as we continue.
Ridiculous or Blasphemous?
Sanders, Oord and other Open Theists make a major error in thinking that we have to choose between their “God models” — as in having to choose one or the other. The fact is that these models co-exist.
I use the term Nature/Nurture because God nurtures His creatures based on His Nature. Open Theists turn that around. They say that the way God “nurtures” comes from God’s weak “nature.” In other words, God’s Nature takes a back seat to how He nurtures His creatures. Oord did write that “God’s nature or essence is unchanging,” but he prefaced that statement with “God’s experience changes, yet …”
What does that mean? Oord answers that for us with a truth claim he made a bit earlier in his list of Open Theism’s core themes: “God experiences others in some way analogous to how creatures experience others.” Another core theme, according to Oord is “Although everlasting, God experiences time in a way analogous to how creatures experience time.”
Wait a minute! God experiences others in some way “analogous” to how creatures experience others? God experiences time in a way “analogous” to how creatures experience time? Does Oord even know what he’s saying?
The word “analogous” is defined as “comparable in certain respects, typically in a way which makes clearer the nature of the things compared.” God’s experiences with people and time are “comparable” with people He created? I wonder what God thinks of that line of thinking?
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
And to be held in reverence by all those around Him. Psalm 89:6-7
All nations before Him are as nothing, And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? The workman molds an image, The goldsmith overspreads it with gold, And the silversmith casts silver chains. Isaiah 40:17-19
Just as I thought. God doesn’t agree with Oord or any other Open Theists for that matter. There is no one or no thing that can compare with God. His experiences are not “analogous” to humans. God is OTHER. He’s not like the creatures He created. His experience with His creation and with time is not remotely close or comparable to the kind of experiences we have with each other and time. This truth claim of Open Theism, as with most of their truth claims, are ridiculous at best, blasphemous at worst.
The way Oord views God’s nature or essence as unchanging is based on a false view of God’s nature and essence. Experience is first and foremost in Open Theism. God’s nature and essence is dependent on experience, not the other way around. Does God change experience or does experience change God? The answer from Open Theism is that experience changes God. If God’s experiences are analogous to how creatures experience others and time, then the god of Open Theism is small indeed .. no better, no more aware, no more knowledgable about the future than humans. God and humans in Open Theism are almost on the same level .. similar to deism. The difference is that the god of deism created and wandered off to do other things in other places. At least the god of Open Theism checks in with his creatures from time to time. He’s like the kindly old grandfather who looks in on the grandkids from time to time to see what they’re doing. He might have a few words of encouragement for them before he goes off to sleep, but the god of Open Theism trusts us to do the right thing. Even if we don’t, he still loves us and hopes we’ll return home at some point. As Oord wrote, “The future is open; it is not predetermined or fully known by God.” The best the god of Open Theism can do is trust and hope that we’ll play nice with each other and maybe even “make the world a better place” while we’re at it.
God’s Identity and Work
Oord also believes that “Theology involves humble speculation about who God truly is and what God really does.” I disagree. We should always be humble as we approach God, but we don’t have to wonder who God is or what He really does. God wants us to know who He is and what He really does, which is why He revealed that information to His prophets so they could reveal it to us.
Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. Hebrews 1:1-2
This is how God decided, before time began, to communicate both His identity and His acts (work): “the prophets” and “His Son.” If we want to know who God is and what He really does, then we need to read what the prophets said and wrote and what Jesus said and what His apostles said and wrote.
I include the apostles in God’s communication because Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to the apostles to guide them into all truth and “testify” about Jesus.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. John 16:12-15
This is why we can trust what the apostles said and wrote. God, “in these last days,” has spoken to us by His Son. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, said a lot to the apostles while He was on earth but said He had more things to say to them. When the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” The Holy Spirit speaks whatever He hears .. and hear this Open Theists .. “He will tell you things to come.” That means the Holy Spirit would tell the apostles things that would happen in the FUTURE. How could God the Holy Spirit tell the apostles what was going to happen in the future if God doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future?
The theology of Open Theism lacks logic and any semblance of connection to reality. All we have to do is look at what God said about prophets in the Old Testament.
… when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22
Israel could know whether a prophet was from God or not based on what they prophesied coming to pass. How would that be a fair way of judging someone unless there was a way for them to know what was going to happen in the future? And how would they know what was going to happen in the future unless someone who knew the future told them? EXACTLY! God knows the future and only someone He told about the future would be a true prophet. The judgment of a prophet was fair because a real prophet of God would hear from God .. the God who knows the end from the beginning.
In the next part of our special series, Open Theism: God In A Box, we will look at how God’s Nature/Nurture benefits humans within time and how Open Theists have so misunderstood who God is and what He is doing.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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