philosopher ronald h. nash (phd from syracuse university), who passed away in march of 2006, was a professor at western kentucky university, reformed theological seminary, and the southern baptist theological seminary. he authored many books which are widely read in many social and academic settings.
Open Theism: An Interview with Dr. Ronald Nash
Michael Collender: Representing the traditional
Christian view of God we have with us Dr. Ronald Nash,
professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed
Theological seminary. Author and co-author of over 30
books and numerous journal articles, Dr. Nash has
sought to apply Christian theology as the foundation of his
study in both history and philosophy. Within
this great body of work he has also written
on open theism and its consequences on our view of history,
theology, and ultimately God Himself. Dr. Nash, thank you for
Dr. Ronald Nash: Glad to talk.
MC: First off, what is your assessment of open theism?
RN: Well, as a part of my answer to that general
let me advise your listeners about what I always tell students
is an important process of coming to grips with any difficult
subject and that is, to read the best material available on the
subject. Fortunately there have just been three or four very
good books published on the subject of open theism. One of
them just reached my desk yesterday as a matter of fact.
They all ought to be available from http://www.amazon.com/
or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ and it just makes sense
to me that anyone who really is serious about this stuff
ought to get some of these books and read them. Let me
quickly tick off those titles and the authors.
The first, and I think the best of these books is titled
God's Lesser Glory and the author is Bruce Ware. He
happens to be a colleague of mine, he teaches at Southern
Baptist Seminary in Louisville where I also teach.
The second book is written by another colleague of
mine who teaches at Reformed Seminary in Florida,
which is where I teach as well, that book is called No
Other God and the author is John Frame.
There's another book that's a compilation of essays edited
by Doug Wilson, it's title is Bound Only Once.
And the fourth book is written by one of my favorite
authors, the title is Life's Ultimate Questions and some
of the points that I'll make today are going to appear in
Now, one of my major problems with open
theism is that I think the proponents of this view fail
to track out the logical consequences of their beliefs.
Now they are hardly alone in this. This is a rather common
practice. Now what I mean by tracing out the logical complications
is looking at your beliefs and then asking if that is true, then what
else follows logically from it?
Now let me show you how that works. Open theists proclaim
that God cannot know future contingent events. That is the
fancy way of referring to events in the future, which result
from human beings making free choices. Now that claim
sounds innocent enough, but let me show you some of the
consequences of that.
Think back to the moment when Jesus Christ was dying
on the cross. Incidentally, let me tell you what John Sanders,
one open theist, says about the cross. He says that God the
Father had no knowledge that His Son would end up being
crucified. And at that particular moment, when God the Father
looks down from heaven and sees His Son hanging on the cross,
John Sanders put it in language somewhat like this, "Oops,
I guess we have to switch to plan B."
Because, you see, to these open theists, God is completely
surprised by any large number of events that happened
in the world. But this poor, impotent deity, who is described
by the open theists, this finite God of open theism, had no way
of knowing at the time that Jesus was dying if even one human
being would accept His Son as Savior.
This poor, impotent deity faced the possibility that the suffering
of His Son on the cross would bring about the salvation of no one.
Another open theist, who happens to be a friend of mine, Bill
Hasker, teaches at a college in Indiana, says that the very fact
that there is a church of God is a matter of God's dumb blind luck
because God had no way of controlling whatever outcome might
follow the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross.
Now I believe all of these consequences are absurd, but I believe
that they all follow logically from the presuppositions of open
theists, and they constitute at least one major reason why
Christians should be looking elsewhere than open theism for
the answers of their world view to questions like the ones we've
been considering on this tape.
MC: Thank you Dr. Nash. Some open theists accuse
historic Christianity of borrowing its view of God from the
Greeks. And in your book The Gospel and the Greeks you
address the connection between Greek culture and the Christian
Are they right? Did Christianity borrow its view of God
from the Greeks?
RN: What really troubles me about this allegation, that
orthodox theology has been strongly influenced by Greek
thought, is that in this particular case it is open theism that
manifests the influence of Greek thinking.
The idea of a finite God; that is the territory of Plato and
Aristotle. If you're looking at least at the idea that a
supreme being cannot know the future, that comes directly
So far as I know that particular idea was originated by
Aristotle in his book on interpretation. Aristotle asked
the question "Will there be a sea-fight tomorrow?"
One navy is going to attack another navy and which fleet will win?
And Aristotle says there is no way for any being to know that
because no proposition about the future can be true.
Therefore if the proposition "The Greek navy will win the
battle tomorrow" is offered by someone and it's a proposition
about the future, that proposition cannot be true, that proposition
cannot be false until tomorrow. Therefore no one can know it.
And that constitutes one of the major reasons why open theists
like Clark Pinnock and John Sanders and a lot of these other
fellows say that poor God can't know the future. Well, I'm
sorry; if God can't know the future, then God cannot predict
Now I'm confident that a large number of your
listeners are immediately thinking of all kinds of prophecies
in the Old Testament and New Testament in which God
Almighty predicts precisely what will happen in the future,
and that's something that can't be possible in a universe in
which God cannot know future, free human actions.
So if we ask the question "will the real Greek please
stand up?" I think it would be the Open Theists that
have to rise to their feet on this issues.