Friday, November 6, 2009

Why I'm Leaning Open Theist

All right, I am very seriously considering open theism at this point. A lot of people will think I'm a heretic (what's new?), but I would just like to make a few points as to why I am leaning toward this position.

  • The Bible portrays God as having sequence, i.e. a before and after. As Greg Boyd points out, open theism is the only view that is directly compatible with the incarnation. As Boyd wrote in his letter to me, the Word became flesh, which presupposes that there was a before He became flesh, and an after He became flesh. In short, a sequence. Also, we shouldn't think that a being that has sequence is limited, whereas a being frozen in an eternal now is not. A being capable of true relationship has sequence. That's just how it works.
  • The Bible portrays God as being flexible. He reacts and adapts to the things human beings do. For instance, after saying He would do so He decided not to send fire down on Ninevah after all, on the basis that the people repented. (Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10; 4:2) He states that He will take away people's shares in the holy city if they take away from the book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18). It doesn't make much sense that He would (or could) take away the share He had given them if a) He foreknew that they would take words from Revelation or b) He was timeless (in the sense of not having sequence).
  • Prayer really does change things. The Bible portrays prayer as something that can spur God to action. For instance, God shows the prophet Amos in a vision the destruction He will bring on Israel. Amos prays, begging God to relent from sending the calamity - and God does. If the exhaustive foreknowledge view is correct, God knew Amos would pray to Him, and had already basically decided that He would not bring destruction on Israel, even though He revealed to Amos that that was His plan. (Amos 7:1-6)
  • The Bible does portray God as regretting previous decisions He made. If He foreknew from all time that man would become so horribly sinful just before the Flood, it wouldn't make sense that He would make the decision to create man and then regret it later (even though if He's timeless, there isn't a later). See Genesis 6:5-6. God also states that He regrets making Saul king (1 Samuel 15:10). How could God say, "I have been eternally certain that Saul's actions would be exactly this way" and then turn and say "I regret making Saul king"? Boyd has pointed out that it is possible to regret making a good decision. For instance, if you hire a new employee and he did the best work of anyone, but several months later he totally botched his job, stole company files, etc., you would regret hiring him because of the free actions he committed, even though at the time you made the wisest possible decision.
  • Some consider the above verses to be anthromorphisms. They're embarrassed because they've decided the Platonic view of God (as an unchanging, timeless sort of big gem in the sky) is the right one, and these passages present God as a relational being with real emotions, a being who is flexible and adaptible (though I should note, biblically God's character never changes, even if His plans do). The real problem is, anthromorphisms always point to a reality. For instance, when the Bible says that God has a strong arm (Psalm 89:10), it points to the reality that God is strong (even though He is Spirit and doesn't have arms). But when it says that God regretted making humans, or that God changed His mind or plans - what on earth is the reality that points to?
  • Open theism doesn't really have a problem being compatible with prophecy. There are different types of prophesies. Some are deterministic prophesies. God determines that this is what's going to happen, and He does it. Others are conditional prophesies, i.e. if you do this then I will respond with this. Many are illustrative prophecies. When Jews said that part of the scripture was being fulfilled, for instance, they didn't necessarily mean that something that had been predicted was now coming to pass. A lot of the "prophesies" about Jesus' life were fulfilled in the sense that they qualified and reflected principles from the scriptures. For more information, see this link.

So these are the basic reasons I am now leaning heavily open theist. For more information, I recommend you see the Q & A section on Greg Boyd's website. It's a position worth looking into, and one that is biblical, I think.

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