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Global Theology Countdown: Open Theism

Open Theism views God as entering a guided partnership with humanity to actualize our history. God desires to work out our future with us rather than dictate it to us and, to that degree, created a world with a largely unknown future (i.e. “open”). By being responsive to human activity and prayers, God engages with us daily through Christ and the Holy Spirit in achieving the Kingdom’s reality here on earth. The doctrine is also referred to as Openness Theology or Free Will Theism, and is a distinct departure from Classical/Reformed traditions.

The Global Theology Countdown  breaks down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.

  • 4 Keys to Understanding
  • 3 People to Know
  • 2 Blogs Worth Reading
  • 1 Book to Read Immediately

This post covers Open Theism and we welcome contributors to share on a different perspective or more information regarding Open Theism. Enjoy!

4 Keys to Understanding

Loving Foundation– the Open Theist perspective is founded on the principle that God is love, and as such God wants a loving relationship with creation. For creation to be relational, humans must be free agents, having a will of their own and having the ability to choose between different paths in life. The ability to choose means a decision has not been predetermined. If the future exists and is known in detail by God, then there is no real choice. God’s knowledge of all future decisions cannot go any other way. A world could have been created with a knowable future, but free and relational agents could not exist in this world.

Future Possibilities–By leaving the future largely open and non-existing, God has chosen to partner with creation to bring about history, analogous to God writing the details of a play with us rather than having us act out a play that was already written.  This perspective invites a whole new understanding for the Christian’s role in the Kingdom. God wants and desires us to be a partner in making the kingdom a fuller reality on earth. (Click to Tweet)  Through avenues like prayer, fellowship, worship and service to others we are contributing to God’s intent for humanity and recognizing our responsibility in the partnership. With an unrealized future, concepts such as prayer become more than following a cue in the play of life to make an event happen. Prayer can be a plea to God to break into history and change the course of an event from an otherwise inevitable destination (see Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 38:1-6). By keeping the future open, God has extended an invitation to us for participating in building humanity’s story on the foundation of Christ through guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Time – Generally, Open Theism is a contrary understanding to the conventional Western view on the nature of Time. As opposed to Time being a determined line that can be seen from the outside, allowing the future to be seen in all its detail, Open Theism understands Time as having a largely undetermined future. Another way of saying this is that the future cannot be known because it does not EXIST to be known. God has left the future full of unrealized possibilities.

Control of History –God is still in control of history, but not in the Classical understanding of the way. Since God does not know the future in detail, it may be feared that history could fly wildly out of control and God is left hopeful, but impotent. However, being able to anticipate any possible outcome, God’s “will” in (almost) every case is not limited to one option, and any number of decisions by us can fulfill it. Whether we decide to become a pastor, doctor or a custodian, God is “omni-resourceful.” No matter the circumstances or what choices we make, God has the resources to guarantee history continues towards the direction of restoration, without needing to map out each detail in advance. As the Ultimate Chess Player, God knows the perfect response for every move to ensure victory without having to move the other side of the board for us.

3 People to Know

Greg Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist and author. Coming from an atheist background, he has contributed most significantly to the Open Theism discussion by being one of its leading advocates for bringing the theology from the scholarly discussion forum to the life of the everyday Christian. Earning numerous degrees, including his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, he also preaches at Woodland Hills, a church he co-founded, and has written several books, including Letters from a Skeptic, God of the Possible and God at War. He blogs at Renew.org.

 Clark Pinnock (1937-2010) was born in Ontario, Canada. Teaching at a number of colleges, his final position was at McMaster Divinity College until his retirement in 2002. Initially writing A Defense of Biblical Infallibility, he moved away from Reformed theology in publishing A Wideness in God’s Mercy. He said he preferred to be known, “not as one who has the courage of his convictions, but one who has the courage to question them and to change old opinions which need changing.”  As a theologian, he tackled a plethora of discussions in Christian theology, with strongest contribution to Open Theism discussions is in his book Most Moved Mover, as well as writing many articles for inclusion into books, such as Perspectives on Election and The Openness of God.

John E. Sanders is a professor of religious studies at Hendrix College. Also having received several degrees, including his doctoral degree at the University of South Africa, he has been one of the earliest proponents of the modern exploration into Open Theism. He has many works discussing the perspective, including The God Who Risks, Does God have a Future and a chapter in The Openness of God.

2 Blogs Worth Reading

OpenTheism.net is a blog put together by Pastor Ed Raby, Sr. that seeks to provide an open forum of discussion that supports the view of Open Theism. It was established March 2006 and respectful comments and questions from all sides are welcome and answered, as well as blog entries made exclusively to biblical passages through the view of this theology.

OpenTheism.info is a site dedicated to exploring this doctrine and maintained by John Sanders. In it you will find resources, comments and questions involving this point of view and seeking to disseminate the information in an understandable way.

1 Book to Read Immediately

God of the Possible, written by Greg Boyd is the best, down to earth representation espousing the Open Theist view. Written in relatable language and keeping the discussion concise and succinct, it will most directly inform the reader of the nature of the theology and provide a good launching pad into further exploration. Using philosophy, scripture and personal experience, Boyd paints an accurate picture of what Open Theism contributes to the life of the Christian and its application into their day to day life.

Kyle Gomez is a graduate of Hope International University with a B.A. in Biblical Studies. Living in the Orange County area, he has a wife and daughter who are used by God daily to teach him new things about life. He occasionally contributes to his blog and enjoys hiking.

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  1. Ryan Reed says:

    Great description and break down Kyle. I would add William Hasker to the list of people to know.

  2. […] had a great response to an earlier post about Open Theism on our Global Theology […]

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