Thursday, February 15, 2007

Open theism

While in the car today, I listened to a debate between a Reformed pastor and an open theist. You can download the debate here.

Open theism, as represented by this debater (a pastor by the name of Bob Enyart), is way off. It's the idea that God does not exhaustively know the future or decree what will take place in the future. Instead, God chose to create a universe in which the future is not entirely knowable, even for Himself. Thus man is able to shape future events that God must react to. This puts man in the driver's seat and strips God of His beautiful attributes of sovereignty and foreknowledge.

Enyart basically ended up saying that God is not omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, or immutable. God's "more important" attributes are love, goodness, and being personal and relational. True, He is all those things, but nowhere does the Bible justify categorizing God's attributes as more important and less important. Yet that's what this guy believes. He said that we in the Reformed camp are captive to Greek philosophy instead of the Bible, yet he ignored all the Scriptures that teach God's all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign character.

Interesting stuff worth listening to.


PaulF said...

I listened to this as well. I guess what I couldn't understand is why Pastor Enyart would want to hang on to this belief system.

What I tell myself is that God is in charge, and that somehow by Pastor Enyart believing this and debating it with Pastor Cook, that more people will come to a true belief of God's character and not some false and made up one.

Certainly, every time I listen to Pastor Cook debate someone, my faith is reinforced.

Thanks for turning me on to Pastor Cook's podcast.

Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

While not agreeing with Open Theism, Richard Pratt makes a similar observation that we in the Reformed world have adopted Hellenistic modes of thinking in our theology. He cites our desire to turn everything in the Bible into propositional truth and the hierarchical structure of the Westminster Confession and our Systematics texts as evidence of our dependence on Aristotelian categories. He proposes instead that knowledge is a "web of multiple reciprocities" rather than a hierarchy.

I would add to that -- though Pratt (and Mike O!) might not -- that some of the Christology of the early creeds is Greekish and goes beyond the Bible. For instance, AFAICT, the distinctions between natures and persons that show up in the Chalcedonian creed are not Biblical concepts, strictly speaking, but are concepts imported from the debates that were going on in the early church and that were highly infused with Hellenistic philosophy. I prefer to leave things more mysterious by saying that Jesus is somehow God and man and leave it at that (this still keeps the Unitarians at bay, but would theoretically allow into Christo-orthodoxy some like the Miaphysites and "Nestorians" -- assuming all agreed to leave the details as mystery). Now, of course we can and should say a little more than that about Jesus as the God-man because the Bible has a little more to say, but my point is that it is only a little more and it does not involve natures and persons (one way or the other).

This approach seems to me to better adhere to Calvin's dictum on studying the Bible modestly: "Let us, I say, allow the Christian to unlock his mind and ears to all the words of God which are addressed to him [in the Bible], provided he do it with this moderation—viz. that whenever the Lord shuts his sacred mouth, he also desists from inquiry. The best rule of sobriety is, not only in learning to follow wherever God leads, but also when he makes an end of teaching, to cease also from wishing to be wise" (Institutes 3.21.3).

Mike said...

Thanks M.F. Very good thoughts. I agree that there is much mystery in the Bible, and while I reject Open Theism I'm not about to claim I understand how divine sovereignty and human responsibility fit together. Both are true, and I leave it at that and bow in awe.