According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Discussions in Open Theism (and differences with Process Theology): Gordon Knight, ROSE, Roger Olson, Thomas Oord, Alan Rhoda

 
Why Open Theism Should Be Considered
August 23, 2013
"Open Theism" Facebook Group
 
Assuming we have some idea what we are talking about, why be an open theist? This is is more or less my take: Before I thought about it, I assumed we can have a personal God, with exhaustive foreknowledge, who loves creation, can have relationships with creatures, and we can have Free will to boot. Then I was persuaded that free will (in the libertarian sense) and divine foreknowledge are incompatible... but then I had a further thought. Its not just metaphysical free will, its also genuine love and relationships with creatures that exhaustive foreknowledge excludes. The God of traditional theism can, at best, play act at responding to you or me. Its an inchoate notion, but I tend to think loving relationships (or interpersonal relations in general) require responsiveness and a kind of give and take [between two parties]....
 
 
What Open Theism Affirms
 
Open Theism affirms that:
 
1) God and creatures enjoy mutually-influencing relations
2) the future is partly open / God ...does not fully settle it
3) love is uniquely exemplified by God and is the human ethical imperative
 
Open Theism's Core Themes:
 
While important differences of opinion exist among open theologians, the following statements comprise core themes that the majority, if not all, would affirm:
 
- God’s primary characteristic is love.
 
- Theology involves humble speculation about who God truly is and what God really does.
 
- Creatures – at least humans – are genuinely free to make choices pertaining to their salvation.
 
- God experiences others in some way analogous to how creatures experience others.
 
- Both creatures and God are relational beings, which means that both God and creatures are affected by others in give-and-take relationships.
 
- God’s experience changes, yet God’s nature or essence is unchanging.
 
- God created all nondivine things.
 
- God takes calculated risks, because God is not all-controlling.
 
- Creatures are called to act in loving ways that please God and make the world a better place.
 
- The future is partly open; it is not completely predetermined or fully known by God.
 
- God’s expectations about the future are often partly dependent upon creaturely actions.
 
- Although everlasting, God experiences time in a way analogous to how creatures experience time.
 
 
The R.O.S.E. Acronym
© 2007 T. C. Moore


R - Responsibility (Libertarian Freewill)

God has granted free agents significant freedom and responsibility to make moral choices for which they are culpable and upon which at least part of the future hangs. The choices of free agents effect others, the future, and God.

O - Openness

God knows all of reality as it is. In the scriptural 'Motif of Future Openness,' God speaks of, and knows, the possible future choices of free agents as possibilities. God allows the future to remain open to the extent God chooses. Therefore, the future is partly open.

S - Sovereignty

God knows all of reality as it is. In the scriptural 'Motif of Future Determinism,' God speaks of and knows the certainties that God will carry out in God's own power as certainties. God determines the future to the extent God chooses. Therefore, the future is partly composed of certainties.

E - Emotion

God is Love. God is affected by the choices of free agents. God responds to free agents. God changes God's mind and plans in response to free agents. God is the most moved mover. It is God's desire to extend the intense love that God has always shared in the Trinity to the creatures God created forever. Christ is the perfect revelation of who God is, even in his emotions. 


* * * * * * * *


Open theism: a test case for evangelicals
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2010/08/open-theism-a-test-case-for-evangelicals/

by Roger Olson
August 23, 2010

Comments

In the January 9, 1995 issue of Christianity Today I reviewed the then new book The Openness of God and ended by raising a question about the maturity of evangelicalism: “How do American evangelical Christians handle theological diversity? Have we come of age enough to avoid heresy charges and breast-beating jeremiads in response to a new doctrinal proposal that is so conscientiously based on biblical reflection rather than on rebellious accommodation to modern thought? This may be the test.”  Needless to say, the next decade proved that to a very large degree significant segments of American evangelicalism had not yet come of age in that sense.

 

The controversy has largely died down now.  But there are many stories yet to be told about it.  I believe much of the controversy over open theism among evangelicals was fueled by misinformation, misrepresentation and down right demagoguery. In many places and at many times open theism and open theists did not receive a fair hearing.  And I know of cases in which evangelical critics knowingly misrepresented open theism in order to create fear of it among the untutored (i.e., people who would never pick up and read a book by an open theist).

 

As I look back on that decade-long controversy now, my heart is heavy for evangelicalism.  I was profoundly disillusioned by the dishonesty and lack of sincerity of many evangelical luminaries who I know read books by open theists and often talked with open theists about their views and nevertheless went public with blatant misrepresentations.  I was also profoundly disillusioned by the heat of the controversy in which some evangelical scholars and leaders hurled accusations and charges against open theists that were completely out of proportion to the amount of time and effort they had spent in dialogue with their fellow evangelicals who either were open theists or sympathized with them.
 
One of the most common charges from conservative evangelicals was that open theism simply amounted to process theology.  At one conference I attended a well-known and highly regarded evangelical theologian who had the podium stated simply and baldly that “open theism is just process theology.”  This is a man who should know better; he is widely read and intelligent and a prolific evangelical author.  I stood during the discussion time to explain to him and the audience why it is not “just process theology.”  Before I could say much he told me to sit down because he and I were never going to agree about this.  He was simply rude and closed-minded.  (About two years later he apologized to me and for that I am grateful, but the damage was already done.  I would rather that he publish something rescinding his publicly stated view that open theism is process theology.)
 
Another well known evangelical theologian and apologetics writer wrote that “neotheists [his term for open theists] admit not only that this is a diversion from the historic theistic position but that it is influenced by process theology.”  He sought to support his accusation by quoting evangelical open theist philosopher William Hasker: “It will no doubt have been noticed that the conclusions we have reached agree, on an important point, with the conception of God’s knowledge developed in process theology.” Even a quick glance at Hasker’s book (from which that quote was taken) reveals that Hasker does NOT admit influence by process theology and in fact goes to great lengths to distance open theism from process theology.
 
So what are the differences?

- All open theists affirm creatio ex nihilo while process theology denies it [Update: at this point in the discussion one can hold to CEN as separate from process theology given that Evolutionary Creationism will allow for CEN - R.E. Slater].

- All open theists affirm God’s omnipotence while process theology denies it.

- All open theists affirm the supernatural and miracles while most, if not all, process theologians deny them.

- Open theists all say that God limits himself; process theology represents God as essentially limited and finite.

The only point on which they agree is about God’s knowledge of the future, but even there one finds profound differences.  For example, according to open theists the openness of the future even for God is due to God’s self-limitation in creation.  According to all open theists, God could know the future exhaustively and infallibly IF he chose to create a world with a closed future (as in divine determinism).

Anyone who doubts or questions these differences MUST read the edited book Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue between Process and Free Will Theists.  There the differences come out very clearly; the dialogue breaks down over the points mentioned above.  The two sides start out and end up rejecting each other.  The differences are vastly greater than the minor similarities.
 
Other accusations against open theism and open theists amounted to pure demagoguery (in my opinion).  One leading evangelical (whom I would rather categorize as a fundamentalist) wrote that open theism’s God is an “ignorant God” without explaining the open theist viewpoint on God’s knowledge or lack of it with regard to the future.  The same man wrote that the open theist God “gives bad advice” without noting that for an open theist God’s advice is always good even if later, because of a creatures’ misuse of free will, that same advice would be bad.  No open theist says that God gives bad advice or that God is ignorant of anything.
 
Now some may balk at that last statement.  But I ask them: Does God know the DNA of unicorns?  The only honest answer is that he does not because unicorns don’t exist.  (Some have tried to cavil that of course [because] God [would know] the DNA of unicorns if he had created them.  But that is simply a cavil.)  Similarly, open theists say God’s lack of knowledge (if one can even speak that way) of parts of the open future lies in the fact that there is nothing to know.  God knows everything it is logically possible to know.
 
At a conference I heard an influential evangelical philosopher blast open theism for “limiting God.”  I asked him if he believes God can change the past to which he replied no.  Isn’t that limiting God? I asked.  He had no answer; he changed the subject.  My point is that everyone “limits God” in some way.  Even the most radical nominalists of the medieval and renaissance eras and even Luther acknowledged that there are things God cannot do.  (William of Ockham, who believed that God does not have an eternal, immutable nature or character that limits what he can or cannot do, said that God cannot do the logically impossibleMost theists agree.)
 
One leading evangelical accused open theism of “Socinianism” which normally means denial of the deity of Christ and of the Trinity. [How Absurd!]
 
One criticism of open theism that particularly galled me was the ironic one from some leading evangelical Calvinists that open theism allegedly diminishes the glory of God.  What I want to know is how anything can diminish the glory of God if everything, without exception, is foreordained and rendered certain by God for his glory?  I asked a theologian who wrote a book that revolves around this criticism if he believes open theism was foreordained by God for his glory.  The answer was, of course, yes.  Then, I would like to know, how it can diminish God’s glory?
 
Throughout this controversy several evangelical thinkers, writers and speakers simply stated to their audiences that I am an open theist.  They had no ground or basis for this as I had never (and still have never) identified myself as an open theist and have always identified myself as a classical Arminian. At least twice evangelical writers attributed quotes to me that I never said or wrote.  When challenged, they could not show where I said or wrote those things.  In one case, the man wrote me a letter of apology and in another case the man relentlessly defended his attribution in spite of being unable to show where I said it.
 
One of the worst tactics used by some opponents of open theism was attributing to open theists beliefs they consciously and publicly reject.  For example, some critics of open theism have stated publicly that open theists deny the atonement.  When pressed about that they have explained (too late) that what they MEAN is that open theism, if true, (in their opinion) would make the death of Christ impossible because God would not know in advance what the actions of free agents would be and therefore could not arrange Christ’s death.  Even if that were true, it falls far short of denying the atonement! [Hence, it is only an assumption based upon theological conjectured. - R.E. Slater]
 
I believe this entire controversy proves my claim (made earlier here) that many conservative evangelicals are not really evangelicals in the post-fundamentalist, post-WW2 sense but really fundamentalists (which might be unfair to many fundamentalists!).
 
So why does all this matter now?  Because the whole controversy poisoned the atmosphere within the evangelical academy.  One open theist scholar was fired from his teaching position even though the school hired him knowing he was an open theist.  I assume they fired him under pressure from constituents few of who probably understood open theism.
 
I know many people who are afraid of open theism but have no real knowledge or understanding of what it is.  They have only read (mostly Calvinist) critics of open theism and have closed their minds to it.  They rarely take the time or trouble to read open theists’ own writings.  (In case anyone reading this needs to read a good, brief exposition of open theism I recommend Greg Boyd’s The God of the PossibleIt is the clearest brief statement of open theism that clears up most, if not all, of the misconceptions about it.)
 
Many evangelical “scholars” and leaders have simply lumped people like me, who defend open theism as a legitimate evangelical option, into the same camp with the open theists–as dangerous subversives of the evangelical faith.  That’s fine; I’ll stand with my open theist friends in that camp over against the neo-fundamentalists who seem to be largely controlling the evangelical establishment today.  I have higher hopes for the future of the evangelical academy and there are hopeful signs (e.g., the new direction Baker Academic publishers is taking).  But I know that many evangelical college and university and seminary administrators are so under the spell of the neo-fundamentalists’ fear factory that they are reluctant or totally unwilling even to consider hiring an open theist.
 
To me, open theism, though mistaken, is much to be preferred over five point Calvinism, with its belief that "Christ died only for the elect."  By historical standards, that doctrine is a novelty.  I have found only one instance of it before Theodore Beza–the 9th century monk Gottschalk who was imprisoned for that teaching (and others similar to later Calvinism).  Even Calvin did not believe in it.  (See the excellent book on this subject by R. T. Kendall as well as the chapter by Kevin Kennedy in Whosoever Will: A Biblical and Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.)  Not only is limited atonement a novelty in terms of church history; it represents a deep deviation from the biblical and historic Christian teaching about the love of God for all people.
 
However–both open theism and five point Calvinism [do, and will,] exist within the evangelical movement.  All talk about “evangelical boundaries” to exclude one or the other is futile.  There are no such boundaries and no magisterium to enforce them if they did exist.
 
Debate over open theism is fine; I have no objection to it–so long as it is informed and civil.  But far too much of the debate over open theism in evangelical circles has been neither.

 
* * * * * * * *
 
What's Next?
R.E. Slater
August 23, 2013
 
Occurring further below will  follow a discussion between two theologians concerning whether Open Theology may admit to Process Theology or not. The turning point of this admittance seems to rest upon one's definition of Genesis 1.1 and the Latin term "creation ex nihilo," (CEN) which translated means "creation out of nothing."
 
Here are my several thoughts. First Roger Olson's criteria for orthodox Christian differences with process theology's semi-Christian statements are good criteria with the exception of CEN. However, if process theology is adjusted from its views of panentheism's basis of God and world as co-equal, co-dependents, and rectified with Relational Theism (that is, how God relates to His creation), than for me, process theology becomes relational-process theology and all is well and good and we may learn some valuable insights from process theology. Moreover, process theology ceases to be the bogey man that more fundamental theologians believe it to be.
 
Additionally, with Thomas Oord I would stand upon a redefinition of CEN as an unknowable subject which the Bible remains inspecific about. According to quantum science's latest theories there always was a physical something in the universe... even though we deem it as "nothing" - still that "nothing" had quantum substance, mass, and energy (please refer to our past articles on this subject). And if the theories of multi-verses are admitted in their mathematical logic so that even before the pre-primodial mass of our present day universe there existed other universes bubbling along in eternal inflation or conflation, existing for a time or ceasing all together like a large cosmic yo-yo expanding and detracting back-and-forth from time immemorial to time eternal.
 
In terms of Genesis 1.1, the un-versed, non-scientific, biblical writer could not know this... it was simply the writer's belief that God created all. Sustained and maintained all. And even now guides and directs all. And so, whether God created from nothing, or from this quantum soup of "something-nothing," or even from the pre-postmordial soup of multiverses, still the biblical writer would be correct in his assessment. And hence, the Latin term (CEN) is an argument from logic that is un-answerable on biblical terms in so far as Genesis' literary and historical redaction is concerned. But in terms of one's definition of God, as theorized on the grounds of His ontological essence by philosopher/theologians, we still cannot know.... Only that dependent upon our theological biases we may either say "God created all things" (from Him came something), or "God created from alongside of something." Which in the conservative view of things would diminish God's "God-ness," even though I don't think it actually would. However, it is pragmatically understandable from the pedestrian viewpoint. Still, these are the logical arguments based upon one's definition - or idea of - "God" behind the confessional, systematic discussions.
 
The other problem comes from asking "Where does sin come from?" Does it come from the God who creates all things? If so, is God than a progenitor of evil? More probably, at least for myself, it is a theological misperception of creational indeterminacy and human freewill. Once God created as He did, by allowing the cosmos to run as it does, He had given to nature at that moment its random, chaotic, and indeterminate nature even as He had decreed to man his own freewill (sic, that is, as that freewill had developed along its evolutionary scale from nothing to something, from beast to man). And with freedom came corruption, death, sin, and evil. These events are not generated by God but from within the nature of freedom itself as granted by God to His creation. (Remember too that "freedom" is a metaphysical quality or idea, but not an ontologic essence as many have attributed to it. That is, sin does not reign alongside God... it is simply a result of the freedom God gives to His creation). Which is why I think the statement is a misperception, or ill-framing, of the question of whether God is an evil God. But this too has been discussed at length in past articles (cf. sidebar, Sin).
 
That's the short answer. And it is also a problem that process theology attempts to answer by saying that God "self-limits Himself." Though I would prefer to understand God's limitations as unlinked from the idea of panentheism and relinked by the idea of divine self-limitation pertaining to creational freedom. Whereas process theologians would assert that this idea is definitively linked to panentheism (given their idea of God's co-dependence and co-equality with creation). And yet, by turning the idea of CEN and freewill around a bit (as shown above) and by creating a synthetic arrangement between classic theism and process theism we might then better explore a postmodern orthodoxy based upon relational theism that combines/connects with the ideas behind open theism (even as other postmodern theologies are explored such as an anthropological hermeneutic in its meaning for us in our reading of the Bible for today).
 
Why? Because, as the church and societies mature and evolve through time and industry, rot and breakage, so too must our theological ideas and expressions evolve... held to biblical standards nonetheless - but perhaps not to past-biblical standards as once so strictly (or naively) defined and expressed in our more ancient eras of human history. There is no reason for Christians to believe that their faith is out-of-date or irrelevant with the evolving maturity of the world and cosmos. But to be wise - and wisely be able to judge - past doctrinal expressions framed within future doctrinal expressions while knowing when to expand (or let go) of either one's past or future commitments. According to Roger Olson, those that don't like it will hastily judge in misunderstanding and error to their congregation's harm and faith's demise.

Tradition - especially religious tradition - can provide sorrowful blinders and leprosy to the Christian faith. Let not its cancer divide and kill. And fear not honest discussions between intimate subjects passionately waged. It is ever the more prudent course to remain humble of heart and spirit (as seen here in Thomas Oord's rebuttal) while attempting to remain theologically relevant and forward-looking. Especially for the one who firmly believes God is God regardless of our pulpiteering windage, rancorous pockets of power and mammon, and theological towers built to the heavens like the vaunted tower of Babel's pride. Let God's love be our steady companion and guide amid lands of the unknowable or unexplained. Even as we have seen by Jesus' life and witness, His death and resurrection, reach past His accusers to share God's love with all. Let this be our orthodox heritage in word and deed, and nothing less to the God we know and love and cannot begin to fathom in His glory. Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
August 23, 2013

 
"Biblical criticism is perennially caught between the Scylla of interpretive freedom and the Charybdis of irrelevance. Too much hermeneutic freedom and the tradition disintegrates, losing its epistemological appeal. Too little interpretive freedom and the Bible becomes merely an irrelevant historical artifact, rather than the living word of God." Inherently, evangelical biblical interpretation is unquestionably caught between a need for relevance and the need for textual validity.

 
* * * * * * * *
 
 
Oord's Response to Rhoda's
"Thoughts on open theism (OT) and creation ex nihilo (CEN)"
 
 
 
Dear Alan and others,

Here's a point by point response to your excellent post:

Alan wrote: “My claim that Open Theology (OT) (broadly construed) is committed to "broadly classical theism" (BCT) encountered pushback from Tom Oord.”

Tom: Actually, I agree that OT is broadly classical theism. So there’s no push back on that claim. I also consider my own views to be in synch with broadly classical theism, although the issue of creation ex nihilo (CEN) [Latin for "creation from nothing"] is obviously an exception.

Alan writes: Tom objects to the final clause of BCT, which states that God "created the world ... ex nihilo and can unilaterally intervene in it as he pleases." Tom thinks I should drop the clause so that he and other scholars who reject CEN qualify as "open theists" under a suitably revised definition of OT.

Tom: This is true. But my main motivations for dropping CEN have to do with:


(1) OT being consonant with the biblical witness (I think CEN is not supported by Scripture [which was based upon the ancient view of cosmology at that time - R.E. Slater]), and

(2) the damaging implications CEN has for dealing well with the problem of evil ["since God created all than He must have created sin too," which is biblically unsupportable, but is well within the biblical purview of creational indeterminacy and human free will - R.E. Slater]

I think the problem is unsolvable if one thinks God can create something from nothing; most theologians I know agree, but they bite the bullet and appeal to mystery.

Alan writes: CEN does not entail that God could have refrained from creating.

Tom: I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, and I admit I’m still not completely sure what I think. If advocates of CEN say one of its virtues is that God creates freely in the sense that God need not create (an idea you can find often in OT literature), aren’t we saying this freedom means God could have refrained from creating? If one really wants to emphasize the freedom inherent in CEN, one should have to bite the bullet of saying God could have existed eternally without ever creating. If you affirm CEN, you should say creating isn’t essential to God’s nature.
Alan writes: Nor does [CEN] entail that God is the sole sufficient cause of everything *in* creation, which would rule out creaturely freedom.

Tom: I agree. And as you know, I don’t make that argument in my paper.

Alan: [CEN] does require, however, that God *unilaterally* initiate creation.

Tom: I agree. And that’s one reason I oppose CEN.

Alan: (1) My inclusion of the clause in BCT was not arbitrary. It serves to distinguish OT from process theism (PT).

Tom: Yes, it does distinguish OT from PT – AS YOU DEFINE THEM – but it doesn’t distinguish them in the actual world of theologians who identify themselves by these labels (see my example of Philip Clayton, for instance).

Alan writes: In the founding writings of the modern OT movement (The Openness of God, God of the Possible, The God Who Risks), whereby the term "open theism" was coined, all of the main authors (Boyd, Pinnock, Rice, Hasker, Sanders, Basinger) were clearly intent on keeping OT distinct from PT, particularly with respect to CEN and God's power *unilaterally* to intervene in creation. Since it was under that intent that the term "open theism" was introduced, this should have considerable normative force for the term's usage.

Tom: This is a strong historical argument. It assumes, of course, that OT is not subject to change. And we all know historical movements change. As I mentioned earlier, Pinnock softened on his original affirmation of CEN, and this softening was influenced by biblical scholarship. As you know, OT has various versions within the OT philosophical community too.
Alan: (2) As this post below by Roger Olson reminded me (HT: T.C.), a common charge against OT during the heyday of controversy at the ETS, was that OT was just warmed-over PT--process theism in sheep's clothing. To blur the lines between OT and PT by dropping the final clause of BCT would at least partially vindicate such critics.

Tom: Perhaps this is true. But I’m not very interested in pacifying such critics. I’m more interested in seeking a biblically, existentially, and philosophically viable theology. I like how Clark Pinnock addressed these critics:
PINNOCK: Let’s be honest – there is risk for [both process and openness theists] in this dialogue. The conservatives will undoubtedly say: “There, we told you so – the openness theists are talking with the process theists! Did we not warn that they are covert processians who aim to smuggle these process ideas into evangelical thinking?” And certain liberals and modernists will say: “Why do you process theists bother with fundamentalists? Why do you lower yourselves to appear in print together with them? Where is your self-respect? Are you so desperate to find acceptance in the mainline?”


Together we say to the critics – we will not allow ourselves to be led by such fears.

Alan: (3) After reading Tom's paper, I believe his biblical case for rejecting CEN is at best inconclusive. He argues plausibly that CEN enjoys *less* positive biblical support than is often supposed, but I don't think he makes a strong biblical case *against* CEN. (I resist, e.g., his reading Gen. 1:1 through the lens of Gen. 1:2.)

Tom: I admit that there is not complete consensus among biblical scholars on this. But my argument is that the VAST MAJORITY of biblical scholars agree with my view that CEN is not in Genesis 1:1. I don’t know of any non-Fundamentalist OT scholars who think Gen 1:1 entails CEN. Perhaps there are some, but I know and have read many who agree with me.

Alan: (4) Certain Biblical verses (esp. Gen. 1:1, John 1:3, 1 Cor. 8:6, and Col. 1:16) lend strong *prima facie* support to CEN.

Tom: I strongly disagree! These have been read through the presupposition of CEN, but I don’t think they should be or give strong prima facie support to CEN.

Alan: Other verses (e.g., 2 Peter 3:5) may seem to suggest otherwise, but I think these can be read as referring to *post-initial* creative events, rather than to the event that started it all. (Tom doesn't think there was a start to it all, but that's a separate issue. It's a stretch to claim that the *Bible* teaches an infinite past.)

Tom: I disagree with your reading of Peter, as you might suspect. But your last sentence is an especially important one. I don’t say that the Bible “teaches an infinite past.” Rather, I say the Bible teaches that God always creates something from something. And then I speculate that the best possible theory is that God has been doing this everlastingly.
Alan: (5) Tom argues that CEN renders the problem of evil "unsolvable" and makes God "culpable" for permitting evils that he could have prevented. But he moves *way* too fast here. His presentation of the problem of evil largely ignores the contributions of theodicy ("a vindication of the divine attributes, particularly holiness and justice, in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil") and implausibly (IMHO) assumes that we can easily tell what a God of love would or would not be justified in permitting.

Tom: Of course, I disagree with you here. I’ve written much about this in various books, so I’ll not comment more. See my arguments in The Nature of Love and the last chapter of Defining Love, for instance.

Alan: (6) Tom also charges that "the God who creates out of nothing does not essentially and everlastingly relate to and love the world and could voluntarily choose to hate it." But his argument for this disturbing conclusion is based on two conflations:


 
(a) First, he conflates CEN with the claim that God might have refrained from creating, something CEN does not entail.

Tom: See my comments above on this…

Alan: (b) Second, he conflates the idea that *possibly God does not create and thus does not love creation* (because in that case there would be no creation to love) with the idea that *possibly IF God creates God does not love creation*.

Tom: I’m not sure I’m following you here, so you may have to explain this more. But my argument derives from the view that CEN implies creating is not essential property of God.

Alan: (7) CEN is entailed by the "sovereignty-aseity intuition" (SAI). God, in virtue of being the sovereign Lord of all, must be the most *fundamental* being there is. Nothing else can be co-fundamental with God. Hence, God must be the *only* fundamental being. Hence, all that is not-God must *ultimately* owe its being to God.

Tom: I agree with all of what you say here. But I think my alternative coheres with all of this. Read the paper sections on my denial that creation is eternal. I say God is the only eternal (e.g. “fundamental”) being. And I say everything that is not God owes its being to God.

Alan: (8) Tom aims to accommodate (7) by supposing that God and creation both have an infinite past and that, at every stage, God's causal input is *necessary* for bringing about the next stage of creation. He stops short, however, of saying that God's causal input is ever, or even could be, *sufficient* for the existence of any created thing or sufficient for there being any creation at all.... That's the sticking point. On Tom's view, God's creative activity is *always* and *essentially* constrained by an already existent, partly independent something-or-other that is not-God. This's not compatible with CEN, but it is compatible with PT.

Tom: I think this paragraph is mostly right. You’re right to point to God acting as a sufficient cause as the sticking point between us on CEN. But you also say…

Alan: “On Tom's view, God's creative activity is *always* and *essentially* constrained by an already existent, partly independent something-or-other that is not-God.”

Tom: This is true. But what makes my version different from most PT versions I know is that I say this constraint derives ultimately from God’s nature of love. In other words, it is God’s own loving nature that creates others, and then these others subsequently place constraints on some things God can do. Do you see this important move of placing ultimacy in God’s nature rather than created others (even if you don’t personally affirm it)?
Thanks again for this conversation, Alan. I often learn from you, and I’m grateful that you are open to considering my arguments on these issues.

In friendship!

Tom
 
 
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Thoughts on open theism (OT) and creation ex nihilo (CEN)

by Alan Rhoda

 

My claim that OT (broadly construed) is committed to "broadly classical theism" (BCT) encountered pushback from Tom Oord. Tom objects to the final clause of BCT, which states that God "created the world ... ex nihilo and can unilaterally intervene in it as he pleases."

Tom thinks I should drop the clause so that he and other scholars who reject CEN qualify as "open theists" under a suitably revised definition of OT.

Having now read and reflected on Tom's paper critiquing CEN, I'm sticking to my guns on BCT and CEN, subject to the following clarification:

CEN =def. God is the sole necessary, sufficient, and actual cause of there being anything other than God at all.

 As such, CEN does not entail that God could have refrained from creating. Nor does it entail that God is the sole sufficient cause of everything *in* creation, which would rule out creaturely freedom. It does require, however, that God *unilaterally* initiate creation.

As to why I'm sticking to my guns:

(1) My inclusion of the clause in BCT was not arbitrary. It serves to distinguish OT from process theism (PT). In the founding writings of the modern OT movement (The Openness of God, God of the Possible, The God Who Risks), whereby the term "open theism" was coined, all of the main authors (Boyd, Pinnock, Rice, Hasker, Sanders, Basinger) were clearly intent on keeping OT distinct from PT, particularly with respect to CEN and God's power *unilaterally* to intervene in creation. Since it was under that intent that the term "open theism" was introduced, this should have considerable normative force for the term's usage.

(2) As the post by Roger Olson reminded me (HT: T.C.), a common charge against OT during the heyday of controversy at the ETS, was that OT was just warmed-over PT--process theism in sheep's clothing. To blur the lines between OT and PT by dropping the final clause of BCT would at least partially vindicate such critics.

(3) After reading Tom's paper, I believe his biblical case for rejecting CEN is at best inconclusive. He argues plausibly that CEN enjoys *less* positive biblical support than is often supposed, but I don't think he makes a strong biblical case *against* CEN. (I resist, e.g., his reading Gen. 1:1 through the lens of Gen. 1:2.)

(4) Certain Biblical verses (esp. Gen. 1:1, John 1:3, 1 Cor. 8:6, and Col. 1:16) lend strong *prima facie* support to CEN. Other verses (e.g., 2 Peter 3:5) may seem to suggest otherwise, but I think these can be read as referring to *post-initial* creative events, rather than to the event that started it all. (Tom doesn't think there was a start to it all, but that's a separate issue. It's a stretch to claim that the *Bible* teaches an infinite past.)

(5) Tom argues that CEN renders the problem of evil "unsolvable" and makes God "culpable" for permitting evils that he could have prevented. But he moves *way* too fast here. His presentation of the problem of evil largely ignores the contributions of theodicy and implausibly (IMHO) assumes that we can easily tell what a God of love would or would not be justified in permitting.

(6) Tom also charges that "the God who creates out of nothing does not essentially and everlastingly relate to and love the world and could voluntarily choose to hate it." But his argument for this disturbing conclusion is based on two conflations:
(a) First, he conflates CEN with the claim that God might have refrained from creating, something CEN does not entail.

(b) Second, he conflates the idea that *possibly God does not create and thus does not love creation* (because in that case there would be no creation to love) with the idea that *possibly IF God creates God does not love creation*.

(7) CEN is entailed by the "sovereignty-aseity intuition" (SAI). God, in virtue of being the sovereign Lord of all, must be the most *fundamental* being there is. Nothing else can be co-fundamental with God. Hence, God must be the *only* fundamental being. Hence, all that is not-God must ultimately* owe its being to God.

(8) Tom aims to accommodate (7) by supposing that God and creation both have an infinite past and that, at every stage, God's causal input is *necessary* for bringing about the next stage of creation. He stops short, however, of saying that God's causal input is ever, or even could be, *sufficient* for the existence of any created thing or sufficient for there being any creation at all. That's the sticking point. On Tom's view, God's creative activity is *always* and *essentially* constrained by an already existent, partly independent something-or-other that is not-God. This's not compatible with CEN, but it is compatible with PT.


 

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