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
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

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Does the Bible Prove Open Theology?

The Bible Proves Open Theology?
by Thomas Jay Oord
November 15, 2012

I’ve been working with my graduate theological students lately on issues pertaining to open theism. A few biblical passages have played key roles in the discussion.

I’m of the opinion that the majority of the Bible supports open theology’s notions about a loving God in relationship with the world. I think the Bible generally supports the notion that creatures have genuine freedom, which God gives them.

I also think the Bible supports, overall, the view that God does not know all of the details of the future until those details are worked out in actual experience. I believe God knows all of the possibilities for the future. But I don’t think God knows with certainty which possibilities will be actual until the time comes.

Let me be quick to admit, however, that a few passages in the Bible do not easily fit open theology. They don’t fit, at least, in the way they are typically interpreted. In some, the English words translators use lead away from an openness perspective, although the original Hebrew or Greek words may not do so.

I thought I’d post the biblical passages we’ve been working through together. In my view, they support open and relational theologies well.

God Regrets
In the story of Noah, we find that God observes something God apparently did not expect. In fact, God has regrets. This suggests that God doesn’t know all of the future with certainty.

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” – Genesis 6:5-6

God Learns

When God sends Abraham to kill his son, God isn’t sure what Abraham will do. Will he be obedient? After seeing Abraham ready to go through with the sacrifice, God learns something about Abraham God did not know previously.

“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." Genesis 22:10-2

God Changes Plans

God says Hezekiah will die. This apparently reflects God’s plans. But Hezekiah pleads for continued life. So God changes plans, based on Hezekiah’s response. This suggests the future is not settled, complete, or done, and God doesn’t know with certainty all things that will occur in the future.

“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover." Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD: "Remember now, O LORD, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: "Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.” Isaiah 38: 1-5

God Changes His Mind

Many of us know the story of Jonah and the big fish. But fewer know that God’s plans changed because of Nineveh’s eventual repentance. God tells Jonah that the city will fall. But because Nineveh repented, God changed his mind. God’s statement about Nineveh falling must have been conditional and not express something certain about the future.

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish." When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:1-10


Do these passages (and many others like them) prove that open and relational theologies are the only way we rightly interpret the Bible? Do they prove that open and relational theologies offer the correct view of God and God’s relation to creation and the future?


But they offer compelling reasons for Christians who think open and relational theologies do a better job than other theological frameworks. They are strong evidence for the biblical basis for open theism. And biblical passages such as these invite us all into the discussion of how we might best think about, worship, imitate, and love the God described in the Bible.

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