after this post, i will wrap up our discussion on open theism with one or two more posts. feel free to make comments or ask questions to regarding ideas or issues that have or have not been addressed so far.
Open Theism: An Interview with Dr. Ronald Nash
Michael Collender: Thank you Dr. Nash. I have a
few final questions for you. Now Greg Boyd, in his book
God of the Possible writes,
"Next to the central doctrines of the Christian faith,
the issue of whether the future is exhaustibly settled
or partially open, is relatively unimportant. It is
certainly not a doctrine that Christians should ever
Now, Dr. Nash, is open theism merely an intra-church debate
about the future, and thus, in the words of Dr. Boyd, relatively
unimportant, or is more at stake?
Ron Nash: With all due respect to Dr. Boyd, this
is a move that has been made by every heretic in the
history of the church.
When the Jehovah's witnesses or other Unitarians have said
the deity of Christ is not something that we should fight about.
Or the substitutionary atonement. This is a classic move.
Now I'm not imputing heresy to my friends who are open theists
in any kind of straightforward way, but once we know where the
church has always stood on these issues, when someone comes
along with what amounts to a new way of understanding these
things and says "now this is nothing to really get excited about,
don't split churches over this, don't leave my church" , then I'm
sorry, this is a matter where we have to take a stand. The last
group of people who's advice we follow on this matter are the
people who are deviating and departing from the church's
long-held position on this.
MC: What exactly is at stake in this issue?
RN: Good question. What is at stake is, number one, our
understanding of God and the kind of God upon whom our
faith is based. What's also at stake here is our firm belief,
or what is the belief of people who are not open theists, that
God is sovereign, and that God is in control of all of human
history, and God will bring His will to pass. One of the points
that I argue in my book Life's Ultimate Questions is that a God
who cannot know the future cannot control the future. And thus,
if we follow the open theist very far down his road, we end up
with a God who cannot give us the confidence that we need to
believe that His will will prevail in human history.
We're dealing, frankly, as I sometimes say to audiences; when
I understand with the God of open theism, I want to pray for that
God because He needs help. Right now the world series starts this
week. The God of open theism has no idea which team is going to
win the world series. The God of open theism who's going to win
the battle against terrorism. That is not my God. That is a different
God. And it is not the God of the Christian worldview.
The very integrity, the heart of our faith is at stake with this
issue, and this is not a minor, trivial matter that says "well, you can
continue to go to this church and worship this alternate God and so on".
MC: You said before that you didn't want to call this heresy.
But is sounds like you're being very kind to your friends who
would hold this position as well.
RN: There are two kinds of heresy. One kind of heresy is illustrated
by a serious error called "Socinianism". And many of the beliefs of
Socinianism are actually taught by these open theists. Their position
is not new. The Socinians lived during the years of the Reformation
and they denied God's knowledge of future contingent events, but
they also then followed that belief down the road to other beliefs
that were specifically heretical.
So one kind of heresy is where you really are out to change the nature
of the Christian faith in to a totally different religion. I'm not accusing
open theists of that.
But there is a second kind of heresy where, without knowing it,
without thinking it, maybe because they're afraid to think through
thing to their end, good people, honorable people, say things that
entail conclusions that are utterly inconsistent with the historic
Christian faith. And that's where I think the open theists are.
MC: What should we as a church do then?
RN: Well, in about a month the Evangelical Theological Society
is going to meet in Colorado Springs and the members of the
ETS are going to debate the question of whether people who
believe this way are holding beliefs that are inconsistent with
the doctrinal stance of the Evangelical Theological Society. And
if their beliefs are inconsistent with the doctrinal stance of the
Evangelical Theological Society, then they should leave.
If the ETS does not reach the proper conclusion here, I think it's
time for a whole lot of people to leave the ETS because it clearly
will no longer stand for the theological foundation upon which it
was based. If that means there is a battle within the church, well,
that's hardly new. The reason the church got to this point is that
when errors crept into the church over the centuries, brave and
honorable people stood up and said "God help me, I can
do no other",to quote Martin Luther there.
Every time the church - Christians, leaders, thinkers - have failed
to take a stand against error, one error multiplies into another.
During the 18th century, people who claimed to believe in the
inerrancy of the Bible in New England began to deny the Deity
of Christ and they did so on the basis of a spurious of false
interpretations of Scripture. That heresy was not rooted out,
and before you knew it all of those congregational churches in
New England that had failed to take a stand decades earlier
were committed to a full blown Unitarian and Universalist
position. You nip it in the bud and if you don't, then the errors
that are implied in this position will eventually creep in and take
over, and then we've lost a serious battle.