The Purpose and Structure of This Volume

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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Some may legitimately ask why another response to open theism is needed, given that a number of fine critiques have already emerged,5 and more are on the way,6 documenting its serious flaws in terms of exegesis, hermeneutics, philosophy, and piety. One reason that this present volume is needed is the evolving nature of open theism. Open theists have continued to introduce nuances, qualifications, and new proposals. When this happens, counter-arguments must become more refined so as to take into account the strongest version of openness theology. For example, in his most recent book on open theism, Gregory Boyd argues that his version of "neo-Molinism" accounts for roughly the same degree of divine providential control as that of traditional Molinism.7

41 am aware of Boyd's argument that open theism "is not really about God's nature at all" but rather "about the nature of the future" (God of the Possible [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2000], 15). Or to put it another way, "The debate over the nature of God's knowledge is not primarily a debate about the scope or perfection of God's knowledge. All Christians agree that God is omniscient and therefore knows all of reality perfectly. The debate over God's knowledge is rather a debate over the content of reality that God perfectly knows. It has more to do with the doctrine of creation than it does with the doctrine of God" (Gregory A. Boyd, "The Open-Theism View," in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, ed. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001], 13). This distinction depends upon Boyd's insistence that open theists "affirm God's omniscience as emphatically as anybody does" (God of the Possible, 16). But Boyd and company have redefined omniscience. The traditional doctrine of omniscience does not merely affirm that "at any time God knows all propositions such that God's knowing them at that time is logically possible" (William Hasker, "A Philosophical Perspective," in Clark Pinnock, et al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God [Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994], 136). Rather, the doctrine of omniscience "requires that any agent is omniscient if and only if he knows all truths and believes no falsehoods" (William Lane Craig, "The Middle-Knowledge View," in Beilby and Eddy, eds., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 137). Craig's conclusion is correct: "The debate over the nature of God's foreknowledge is primarily a debate about the scope and perfection of God's knowledge" (Craig, "A Middle-Knowledge Response," in Beilby and Eddy, eds., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 55). Secondly, Boyd himself seems unwittingly to agree that this debate concerns the attributes of God. On the very same page as his denial that this issue is "about God's nature at all," he claims that "Scripture describes the openness of God to the future as one of his attributes of greatness" (God of the Possible, 15, emphasis added). How can "the openness of God" not be "about God's nature at all" when it is at the same time about an "attribute of greatness"?

5 See especially, Ware, God's Lesser Glory; and John M. Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2001). See also my working bibliography on open theism, included at the end of this book.

6 Projected works include those by D. A. Carson, Steven C. Roy, Mark R. Talbot, and Stephen J. Wellum.

7 Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 130. Molinism, named after Luis de Molina

Introduction 15

This necessarily qualifies, to some degree, early criticisms of his project. His philosophical defense of libertarian free will8 means that critics are no longer able to charge open theists with assuming free will apart from argumentation. The details of these discussions need not detain us here; the point is that new responses are needed to a theology that is in many ways still evolving.

There is a more fundamental reason, however, for why we have felt it necessary to assemble this book. Despite a number of fine critiques, there remain a number of important issues that require a coherent, sustained response. These crucial issues can be summarized as five questions, which have become the five major sections of this book:

1. Have unbiblical philosophical influences decisively distorted traditional Christian theology, as openness proponents maintain? Conversely, has openness theology itself been tainted with unbiblical philosophy?

2. What are the philosophical presuppositions and cultural conditions leading to the development and relative acceptance of open theism?

3. How are we to understand anthropomorphic language and the role it plays in revelation and the interpretive process?

4. What is at stake in the debate about open theism? Does open theism logically undermine the essentials of our faith, including the inerrancy of Scripture, the trustworthiness of God, and the gospel of Christ?

5. Finally, what biblical criteria should biblically faithful churches and parachurch organizations follow in drawing new boundaries to exclude doctrinal aberrations? And why should open theism be considered "beyond the bounds" of biblical Christianity?

(1535-1600), is a philosophical position that understands exhaustive definite foreknowledge to be compatible with libertarian freedom. In Molinism, God has a degree of providential control via his "middle knowledge," such that he knows exhaustively not only all that will be but also all that would be given different circumstances. On the basis of this knowledge, God chooses to actualize a particular world. For an explanation of Boyd's neo-Molinism, see Satan and the Problem of Evil, 127-133. For interaction with his proposal, see the chapters in this volume by Wellum, Ware, and Helseth.

8 See especially chapter 2 of Satan and the Problem of Evil.

16 beyond the bounds

We are not attempting an exhaustive response to open theism9; doing so would require many volumes. Our goal is more modest: to focus on these issues, attempting a clear, fair, and accurate analysis that will assist the church in these days of controversy.

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