According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

(False) Suppositions to Open Theism

Can God change the past?

IF I believed God could change the past I’d be on my knees praying for him to undo the Holocaust. (The Holocaust is on my mind because this evening I am going to hear some theologians and biblical scholars talk about it.)

But, if the fact that God cannot change the past (which most Christians agree he cannot) does not “limit God,” how does saying that God cannot know some portion of the future limit God? It would seem to me that, logically, God’s glory is just as much at stake in his ability to change the past as know the future exhaustively and infallibly including events that are yet to be determined.

Perhaps the real issue between classical theists and open theists is the nature of the future and NOT the nature of God. Greg Boyd has been pushing this point very strongly for years. And yet his critics continue to accuse him and other open theists of limiting God and depicting God as less glorious. I suspect those critics would agree with the Calvinist philosopher I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I think I see an inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, in this.

What do you think? Can God change the past? If so, why is there no example of it in Scripture? (I’m not talking about God forgiving past sins or anything like that. I’m talking about God literally undoing events that did happen.) And, to those who say God can change the past I ask whether they pray for him to do so? And, if God cannot change the past, how is that not a limitation of his power? And, if it’s not, then why is saying that God cannot know future events that are now undetermined?

Not long ago I heard a well-known open theist present a paper arguing that open theism does not in any way limit God. It does not even say God limits himself. The question is, of course, what constitutes a “limitation?” What do you think? Is it possible to say that even open theism does not “limit God” or even portray God as self-limiting? (I have customarily explained to people that open theist says God limits himself.)


Last (?) thoughts (for now) on God changing the past (or not)

by Roger Olson
posted February 2011

So, here is where I have come to on this subject as a result of the discussion happening here (which I invited). MOST (not all) respondents agree that God cannot change the past because of the NATURE of the past. Those who said God would not change the past because he foreordained it missed my point. My question was not about “would” but “can.” The Calvinist philosopher I mentioned (who denied that God can change the past) did not appeal to foreordination. He simply stated that God cannot change the past because the past is what already happened. Thus he was appealing to logic.

The strongest argument I have read here (or anywhere) against God being able to change the past AND that [is] not “limiting God” is that "to change a past event is to undo that which one is changing, which means not changing it." For example, if God “went back” (as it were) and undid the holocaust it would make it the case that the holocaust never happened and therefore God would have nothing to “go back” (metaphorically speaking) and undo. So, changing the past seems (in spite of movies) to be absurd. That God cannot do it is no more a limitation of God’s omnipotence than the fact that he cannot create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it.

Here’s my point all along: IF it is the case that God’s inability to change the past has to do with the nature of the past and not at all with any limitation of God’s glory or power, WHY would it [be] the case that God’s inability to know future, undetermined events (i.e., decisions and actions of free creatures) limits God’s glory or power or even omniscience? Isn’t that claim like saying that God’s lack of knowledge of the DNA of unicorns diminishes his power and glory? Or, more to the point, how does it differ from saying that God’s inability to change the past limits his power and glory?

In short, if it is the case that God’s inability to change the past, because of the nature of the past, does not affect God’s glory and power, why would it be the case that God’s inability to know the future exhaustively and infallibly affects God’s glory and power insofar as the future is partly unsettled?

Now, PLEASE stay on track with me here. The discussion is NOT about God’s sovereignty at this point. To raise the issue of God’s providential sovereignty and claim that saying God’s inability to know the unsettled future limits God’s sovereignty is to veer off topic and raise a separate issue.

IF someone argues that for God to be all glorious and all powerful he MUST foreordain and determine everything past, present and future he or she raises a different set of questions. What I am asking here is only this: IF it is the case that God logically cannot change the past without that in any way diminishing his glory and power HOW is it the case that an inability to know the future exhaustively and infallibly diminishes his glory and power insofar as knowing the future exhaustively and infallibly is logically impossible?

In terms of “cash value” here is my point. Many Calvinists (and perhaps others) claim that open theism especially diminishes God’s glory. (Some Calvinists claim that open theists are not even Christians!) Those same Calvinists probably believe God cannot change the past (logically). But open theism claims that God cannot know the future exhaustively and infallibly because of the nature of the future–not because of any inherent limitation in God (including self-limitation except insofar as God created a world where he could not know the future exhaustively and infallibly).

Now, of course, as I said earlier, IF a Calvinist changes the subject to claim that ALL non-deterministic theologies diminish God’s glory and power, that’s another debate. Then not only open theists but classical Arminians, many Lutherans, most Catholics, probably all Anabaptists and many other Christians are diminishing God’s power and glory. But Calvinist critics seem to aim primarily, if not exclusively, at open theism as especially limiting God’s glory and power. But how so? How is the open theist’s view of God and the future any MORE diminishing God’s glory and power than any garden variety non-deterministic theology?

Doesn’t this prove that the debate specifically over open theism is NOT over God but over the nature of the future just as the debate over God’s power over the past is NOT over God but over the nature of the past?


I found the commentary helpful on the subject above and would encourage interested readers to further peruse those following reader questions and statements here - - in later articles I hope to provide additional open theism discussions as I find them helpful of pertinent. - RE Slater

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