Question #3: What is “open theism?” Who are its chief proponent? What attribute of God does it tend to diminish? Explain.
Answer: Open theists, like Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, and William Hasker, “infer that God is a temporal being (not ‘above time,’ as in much traditional theology, but within time), that He changes His mind, that His plans are influenced by creatures, that He sometimes regrets actions that He has performed (as Gen 6:6), and that He does not have exhaustive knowledge of the future. In their view, God’s regretting and relenting come about because free human decisions are utterly undetermined and unpredictable. Therefore, God must adjust His plans to the free choices of human beings.”1
God’s attribute of immutability seems to be diminished, yes, contradicted (see Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8). God’s omniscience is also undermined (Isa 41:21–23; 42:9; 43:9–12; 44:7; 48:3–7). God’s sovereignty is also undermined. Frame writes, “we should also not forget the pervasive biblical emphasis on God’s sovereign control of the world and His exhaustive knowledge of past, present, and future. God brings about natural events (Ps 65:9–11; 135:5–7), even apparently random ones (Pr 16:33). He controls the smallest details of nature (Mt 10:29–30). He governs human history (Is 10:5–12; 14:24–27; Ac 17:26). If someone dies accidentally, it is because ‘God caused it to happen’ (Ex 21:12–13). Contrary to open theism, God brings about human free decisions, even sinful ones (Gn 45:5–8; Jdg 14:4; 2 Sm 24; Is 44:28; Lk 22:22; Ac 2:23–24; Rv 17:17). He hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 4:21; 7:3), and others as well (Dt 2:30; Jos 11:18–20; 1 Sm 2:25; 2 Ch 25:20), for His own purposes (Rm 9:17). He is also the source of human faith (Jn 6:37, 44, 65; Ac 13:48; 16:14–15; 18:27; Eph 2:4–10; 2 Tm 1:9) and repentance (Zch 12:10; Ac 5:31; 11:18). So human freedom is not indeterminate as open theists maintain. We are free in that we do what we want to do, but behind our plans and desires are those of God (Jms 4:13–16).”2
1 Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 138.
One-Minute Theology with Chaplain T features the question and answer portions of the Systematic Theology courses that were part of my seminary work at Piedmont Baptist Graduate School. I will be posting one Q & A everyday until my ordination council meeting set for February 2014.
Please feel free to interact with me by leaving a comment or a question below. I will try my best to respond right away.