Openess Theology II

I’m continuing to read the Openness debate in the recent Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Up to Greg Boyd’s response. One thing I’ve noticed in both Boyd’s and Sander’s responses is that they draw arbitrary lines and then can’t understand why other folks don’t follow them. There have been many examples but here is, I think, a clear one:

Ware worries that if we take biblical depictions of God changing his mind, regretting decisions, experiencing surprise, etc. as straightforward depictions, then some might eventually go further and conclude that God has a poor memory, has an uncontrolled tempter, has to travel to different locations, etc. We simply do not see anything in narratives that describes God as thinking about the future in terms of what may or may not happen (e.g. Exod 4:1-9; 13:17; Jer 26:3; Ezek 12:2) or changing his mind (e.g. Exod 32:10-14; Jer 18:7-10; Jonah 3:10) or expecting something to happen that does not come to pass (Jer 3:6-7; 19-20; Isa 5:1-10) that suggests they are anthropomorphisms. Nor do we see what true meaning such texts could convey if they are taken as anthropomorphisms.

Boiling this down, what Boyd is saying is that they are just reading those passages and taking them at face value. If it says that God changed His mind, then He changed His mind. Openness Theologians simply don’t see any reason to take them in any other way.

This is nice and makes Openness sound like it is exegetically driven but it isn’t. For example, what clues in context would tell you that God does not have a poor memory or that He has to travel from location to location, or any other anthropomorphism? Why does Boyd read those texts differently than the ones that talk about God changing His mind? This was Ware’s point and it seems to have been lost on Boyd. Boyd will decide when a text is anthropomorphic and when it isn’t. If we chide him for his inconsistency we have good reason. Furthermore, since Openness Theologians are going to employ a consistent hermeneutic (e.g. not one that changes based on a philosophical presupposition) then what are they going to do with things like God’s prediction of Cyrus in Isaiah 44? This took place (if I remember correctly) something like 100 year after Isaiah predicated it. If we follow the Openness notion of what God knows, then there was a real chance that Cyrus would never have been born or could have died before this prophecy could be fulfilled or his parents might have given him a different name or any other number of possibilities. There is no way that God could have known this would come to pass as it did if He does not posses exhaustive foreknowledge.

Openness Theologians want to decide which verses to take literally and which to take antrhopomorphically and they don’t want any guff for making that decision. To my mind, they just can’t have it both ways. If God does not possess exhaustive foreknowledge then He could not have named Cyrus so accurately so many years before his birth.

The problem here has been and remains the philosophical tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Instead of dealing with these two as the exist in the bible, Openness Theologians want to err on the side of human freedom. Hypercalvinists do the exact same thing but err on the side of divine sovereignty. This is not a horse you want to fall off of. Calvinists and Arminians (and other orthodox systems) may lean to one side or the other but somehow they are able to remain the saddle.

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  • I wonder whether those who take the Openess view would acceptt hat Isiahah was prophesying about Cyrus before he came on the scene. More liberal Evangelicals would possibly be receptive tot he idea of three Isaiahs so the second Isaiah would be a contemporary of Cyrus

  • That may be one way out for them Dave. The theme I have heard them say is “We don’t have all of it worked out yet so just give us some room. Stop attacking us.” But I think Isiah proves pretty conclusivly that they’re just flat out wrong.

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