Monday, September 10, 2007

more on god's "ignornace"

there has been a good discussion going on in the comments section of the last post. feel free to participate and carry that conversation over to the comments on this post.

as an update on my back, i have disc fragments floating around in my spinal cord which are digging into and pinching nerves in my spine. i am supposed to rest for two weeks, and if there is no marked difference, i willprobably have my second back surgery in less than 10 years. your prayers are appreciated.

i will pick up where i left off re-posting from tim challies blog on open theism .

Chief Proponents
The best-known proponents of open theism are:

Clark Pinnock -
Clark Pinnock spent 25 years preaching,
teaching, and writing at McMaster Divinity College after
having served previously at the University of Manchester,
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School, and Regent College in Vancouver. He is best-
known for his contribution to the book The Openness of God:
A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of

Greg Boyd -
Greg Boyd is the Senior Pastor at Woodland Hills
Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and previously served as a
Professor of Theology at Bethel College for sixteen years.
In 2000, Dr. Boyd founded Christus Victor Ministries, a
nonprofit organization that promotes faith which satisfies
the mind and inspires the heart. Dr. Boyd regularly speaks
at academic and religious conferences, college campuses, and
churches throughout the United States and abroad. His most
popular book is God of the Possible which is a popular defense
of open theism.

In Their Own Words
There is no better way of understanding a doctrine than through
the words of those who believe and teach it. So let’s turn to some
of the prominent Open Theists and hear them in their own words.
I[tim challies] will provide brief commentary [in green]where

We must wonder how the Lord could truly experience
regret for making Saul king if he was absolutely certain
that Saul would act the way he did.
Could God genuinely confess, “I regret that I made Saul
king” if he could in the same breath also proclaim, “I was
certain of what Saul would do when I made him king?”
Common sense tells us that we can only regreta decision
we made if the decision resulted in an outcome other than
what we expected or hoped for when the decision was made.
Gregory Boyd – God of the Possible, page 56.

Boyd tells us of a God who regrets - a God who
sorrows over
decisions He has made as He is
genuinely saddened by the results of His poor

God makes a covenant with his creation that never again
will virtually everything be annihilated. The sign of the
rainbow that God gives us a reminder to himself that he
will never again tread this path. It may be the case that
although human evil caused God great pain, the destruction
of what he had made caused him even greater suffering.
Although his judgment was righteous, God decides to try
different courses of action in the future.
John Sanders – The God Who Risks, page 50.

In this quote we are told that God regrets. God
suffered greatly as a
result of a decision He made
- a decision that may have been rash.

It may have been an over-reaction.

I suggested to her that God felt as much regret
over the confirmation [of marriage] he had given
Suzanne as he did about his decision to make Saul
king of Israel. Not that it was a bad decision - at the
time, her ex-husband was a good man with a godly
The prospects that he and Suzanne would have a
happy marriage and fruitful ministry were, at the
time, very good. Indeed, I strongly suspect that he
had influenced Suzanne and her ex-husband
[toward] their marriage.

Because her ex-husband was a free agent, however,
even the best decisions have sad results.
Over time…[he] had opened himself up to the enemy’s
influence and became involved in an immoral relationship.
Initially, all was not lost, and God and others tried to restore
him, but he chose to resist the prompting of the Spirit.

By framing the ordeal within the context of an open future,
Suzanne was able to understand the tragedy of her life in a
new way. She didn’t have to abandon all confidence in her
ability to hear God and didn’t have to accept that somehow
God intended this ordeal “for her own good.” … This isn’t a
testimony to [God’s] exhaustive definite foreknowledge; it’s
a testimony to his unfathomable wisdom.
Gregory Boyd – God of the Possible, pages 105-106.

This has become one of the best-known defenses of
open theism
and is a story that is told often.
God did the best with the information

He had at the time and confirmed a woman’s choice of
husband. But
God was later surprised to see this man
prove himself anything but a
good husband. God did His
best to restore this man, but was unable.

God had ultimately made a mistake in confirming
Suzanne’s choice of
a spouse.

The overarching structures of creation are purposed
by God, but not every single detail that occurs within
them. Within general providence it makes sense to say
that God intends an overall purpose for the creation and
that God does not specifically intend each and every action
within the creation. Thus God does not have a specific
divine purpose for each and every occurence of evil.
The “greater good” of establishing the conditions of
fellowship between God and creatures does not mean
that gratuitous evil has a point. Rather, the possibility
of gratuitous evil has a point but its actuality does not. …
When a two-month-old child contracts a painful, incurable
bone cancer that means suffering and death, it is pointless
evil. The Holocaust is pointless evil. .. God does not have
a specific purpose in mind of these occurences.
John Sanders – The God Who Risks, pages 261-262.

Quotes like this one were used to comfort a shocked
world during
the aftermath of the Tsunami of 2004.
Many professed Christians
denied that God had a hand
in this disaster, and that He had
foreknowledge of it.
According to Open theology, there is no purpose

in gratutious suffering and evil, and it occurs outside
the will and
foreknowledge of God.

It is God’s desire that we enter into a give-and-take
relationship of love, and this is not accomplished by
God’s forcing his blueprint on us. Rather, God wants
us to go through life together with him, making decisions
Together we decide the actual course of my life.
God’s will for my life does not reside in a list of specific
activities but in a personal relationship. As lover and friend,
God works with us wherever we go and whatever we do.
To a large extent our future is open and we are to determine
what it will be in dialogue with God.
John Sanders – The God Who Risks, page 277.

This quote emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the
relationship between
men and God espoused by Open
Theists. Humans and God work together

to create, know and understand the future. When it
comes to the future,
God is no further ahead we are
and no more responsible for what will happen

[W]e must acknowledge that divine guidance, from
our perspective, cannot be considered a means of
discovering exactly what will be best in the long run
- as a means of discovering the very best long-term
option. Divine guidance, rather, must be viewed
primarily as a means of determining what is best
for us now.

[S]ince God does not necessarily know exactly what

will happen in the future, it is always possible that
even that which God in his unparalleled wisdom
believes to be the best course of action at any given
time may not produce the anticipated results in the
long run.David Basinger – The Openness
of God, pages 163 & 165.

Basinger tells us that God’s guidance is accurate
only for the present
- only with a view to the knowledge
God currently posesses. Because
God does not know the
future, His guidance cannot extend beyond the

present. Even the best of God’s wisdom can only
anticipate results
based on current conditions.


i hope these quotes were helpful in understanding what it is that open theists believe. i also hope that it helps you to see the consequences of such a belief. that god knows no more about the future than you or i do, that things happen without reason and against god's will, that god can make mistakes, etc.

please feel free to comment..


Mike Gross said...

Thanks for the update on your back...we'll definitely be praying.

The quotes from Boyd and Sanders are very perplexing for me. As I was reading them I couldn't help but think about Acts 4:27-28 "for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."

Are we to believe that God could not know, predestine, or plan the crucifixion of Jesus as this passage states? Did he simply make him available hoping for his death but not really knowing if these people would carry it out? This logic (or lack thereof) seems to suggest that Christ's atoning sacrifice had a chance of not happening. I guess God let out a sigh of relief when it happened.

Thanks again Stephen for posting on this important issue. Get well soon!

shaun said...

I think our discussion about God's timelessness has gone about as far as it can go. I enjoyed the dialog!

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this latest post. I can certainly see where Tim is coming from in a lot of his commentary. I hope the next installment will discuss some counters to the proponents' arguments.

For example, the verse dealing with God regretting making Saul king. The Bible there literally says "regret" or KJV says "repenth" (1 Sam 15:11). This is a verse that seems to, even without Boyd's extrapolations, back up open theists' claims. Tim does not actually deal with the verse in his commentary - he simply points out how silly it is to think that God would actually regret something.

Perhaps there is a mistranslation from the original texts. Perhaps the verse is widely understood to mean something different. Perhaps God is using language that is built for our understanding, when what is really going on is much more complicated.

I am not saying that the verse can not be dealt with, I am just surprised that Tim seemed to write it off and leave it hanging. Maybe the next post will have more counter arguments?

I'm liking the thought provoking stuff. Keep it coming.

stephen lee cavness said...

thanks for your prayers and observations mike!

you make a good observation regarding the "repent" passage. what makes it even more perplexing is within the same few verses god also says that he is not like a man that he would repent!
so yes, there is a logical explanation there.. we';; get to it..


stephen lee cavness said...

i rejected a comment submitted by someone new to our conversation. though it was disagreeable with conclusions drawn here, the reason it was rejected was due to personal comments made in regard to mr. challies.

if i had the capability to "edit" comments, i would have simply erased the part regarding mr. challies, but i do not have the capability (as far as i know).

if you would like to re-submit a comment, minus your assessment of mr. challies, feel free and i would be glad to allow it.


Julie g said...

For some reason I always hesitate to make posts, but I'm going to attempt it now. I'm glad you are blogging on these topics, I've wanted to learn more about them.
This quote stands out to me as ONE of the more confusing( all are confusing!)
"it is always possible that
even that which God in his unparalleled wisdom
believes to be the best course of action at any given
time may not produce the anticipated results in the
long run"

Could this mean that God in his unparalleled wisdom may not know if his own son's blood was enough to save his creation from his own wrath? OR is this the one thing that he does know. Was God thinking " I hope this works, it's the best I've got." I certainly think not.
Also if this -open theism- is true how can we take the scripture, God's word, as our final authority, it seems that if god doesn't know or control this world then his word would also continually change along with his response to our decisions?
Man is the one in control here, and like Mike said, its a good thing man decided to crucify jesus...otherwise....?
Do they have answers to questions like these? I'm sure their attempts are coming in future posts, I'm curious to know.

stephen lee cavness said...

i am glad that you did decide to post a comment.. please feel welcome to anytime.

you raise valid points that are logical outworkings of this position.

i would say, though, that those who promote open theism do have answers to these type of questions. they are intelligent people and i in no way want to make them out to be idiots. there are some adherents to open theism with many degrees in many fields.

but i still disagree with them because their premises are contrary to the god of scripture and as are the logical outworkings of their views.

a good (and surprisingly small.. paperback less than 150 pages) book on teh subject dealing with the questions you asked is "their god is too small" by bruce ware.