Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Sunday, October 25, 2015

God, Salvation, and the Human Will - Monergism vs. the Divine-Human Cooperative

Tenth Avenue North Live - My Love Never Ends
(Maple Grove, MN - 10/7/12)

Thus saith the Lord, "My life for your will."
- Tenth Avenue North

What this means is the continual presence of the Lord in our lives for our
perpetual trust and faith in Him as we live the "yes" to the call of God.

Guest Column from Austin Fischer: Monergism

by Roger Olson
October 3, 2015

As some of you who have been my long-time readers know, Austin Fischer is my protégé even though I can’t take credit for his intelligence or writing skills. He’s a brilliant thinker, teaching pastor (The Vista Community Church, Temple, Texas) and excellent writer. His book “Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed” (Wipf & Stock) has sold very well and is making a real impact among young Christians who have doubts about Calvinism. But I count Austin as more than a protégé or former student; I’m proud to call him my friend. He has provided guest posts here before. This is his newest one–offered without prompting by me.

* * * * * * *

WikipediaMonergism is the position in Christian theology that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about the salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, irrespective of the individual's cooperation. Monergism is most often associated with Calvinism (such as Presbyterianism and the Dutch Reformed Church) and its doctrine of irresistible grace, and particularly with historical doctrinal differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.

This position contrasts with synergism: the belief that God and individuals cooperate, to bring individuals salvation.

* * * * * * *

“Monergism: Maybe True, Definitely Unnecessary”

by Austin Fischer (Author of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed)

Monergism (“one work”) is the belief that God works alone in salvation. It’s usually set against synergism, which is the belief that while God alone does everything in working for our salvation, humans must cooperate with grace in some form or fashion (the cooperation itself, of course, is possible only because of grace).

Monergism is an integral part of Reformed soteriology, because without it Reformed folks feel humans could boast in their salvation and steal God’s glory—two unpardonable sins. As James Montgomery Boice has said it, those who reject monergism cannot give God alone the glory: “They cannot say ‘to God alone be the glory,’ because they insist on mixing human power or ability with the response to gospel grace.”[1] One gets the sense that for many, monergism is not only true but also necessarily true.


[r.e. slater - more simply stated, the position of monergism does not take into account the fact that God decreed into creation the necessity of human response to His grace. That without man's response to His grace God cannot do its work of revitalization, reclamation, renewal, redemption, rebirth, nor resurrection. Thus, Reformed doctrine denies God's decree of "free will" into creation and how it then works in the realm of soteriology (e.g., "salvation," how man is redeemed).

Moreover, to the statement, "How does God overcome the human will in its depravity?" Here, the Arminian doctrine of "God's prevenient grace" comes into account, that God, by His Spirit, "wakes up the soul of the dead" to His grace and forgiveness.

Thus is God glorified as opposed to the stricter Reformed doctrine of monergism denying the necessity of human response to God's grace via free will as decreed by God into all of His creation. This also removes God from the role of autocrat/dictator to the role of Sovereign/Redeemer.]


I’ve discussed monergism in other places (in my book in particular), and used to affirm it, and understand how people think the Bible teaches it. I think they’re wrong and find it curious the early Church Fathers didn’t teach it, especially it if it was so essential - and [especially so] if Paul, allegedly, clearly taught it [which doesn't seem to be the case]. As the great Calvinist theologian Loraine Boettner states, with laudable honesty:

“The earlier church fathers…taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed
that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel…They taught a kind of synergism
in which there was co-operation between grace and free will.”[2] - LB

I know of very few historical theologians who would even begin to contest Boettner’s claim (and again, Boettner was a Calvinist), so I think advocates of monergism have a good bit of explaining to do here. But again, in all sincerity, I understand how people think the Bible teaches it.

But what I would like to point out is that you don’t need monergism to prevent human boasting or protect God’s glory. Nope—all you need is a healthy doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing)…or better yet, creatio continua (continuing creation).

From early on,[3] Christianity affirmed God created the universe from nothing and without necessity and that the whole of space-time is dependent, moment by moment, on the superabundant source of being that is God. Existence itself is grace—a gift, unforeseen and unnecessary and gratuitous, given anew in the unfolding of each moment in which there is something instead of nothing:

“It is the condition of absolute contingency that defines creaturely existence. Every finite being is groundless, without any original or ultimate essence in itself, a moment of unoccasioned fortuity, always awakening from nothing…”[4]

“All-that-is and all-that-has-been and, indeed, all-that-will-be is given existence by an Ultimate Reality that is other than what is created.”[5]

“The power of life stands outside us and is given to us.”[6]

  • God doesn’t need creation.
  • Creation actualizes no latent potential in God.
  • God, from all eternity, is an infinite, vibrant, dynamic, and endlessly creative triune community of abundance, delight, peace, feasting, revelry, and joy.
  • As such, all that is exists in an irreducibly gratuitous fashion and creation is an expression of God’s primordial generosity; a generosity Jesus taught us to call love.

Which brings us back to monergism.

I am deeply grateful for the Reformation. Several harmful trajectories had formed and the Reformation was a much-needed corrective to them. But the dogged focus on the inner mechanics of the soteriological mystery set, in my opinion, another harmful trajectory in which the horizons of the gospel were narrowed and monergism started attempting to say what creatio ex nihilo had already said far better; namely, that EVERYTHING is a gift of grace, to be received with open hands and wide-eyed wonder.


  • Because creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua prevent human boasting and protect God’s glory far more effectively than monergism, accomplishing and exceeding what monergism aspires to with effortless beauty and grace.
  • Because when one realizes every creature—not to mention space-time itself!!!—is sustained, nanosecond by nanosecond, by the wild and unconditioned generosity of God, monergism is simply unnecessary. It might still be true, but it is not necessary. The infinite God, Being behind all being, does not need monergism to protect his glory.

This won’t end any debates on monergism and you can still make a biblical case for it (though I think you can make a better case against it), but perhaps it can help Reformed folks understand why, to a great many of us, monergism is well-intentioned but misguided small potatoes in a universe breathing grace.[7]

- Austin Fischer

[1] Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace?, 167.

[2] The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 365.

[3] See Langdon Gilkey’s outstanding Maker of Heaven and Earth for an examination of the historic consensus on creatio ex nihilo.

[4] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 250.

[5] Arthur Peacocke, The Music of Creation, 7.

[6] Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, 137.

[7] I’m reminded of Kevin DeYoung’s review of my book, wherein he was a bit miffed that I so easily shrugged off the supposed importance of monergism. I can only say that in any theological world where there is a robust doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, monergism simply isn’t essential.

Book Description

Does it really matter? Does it matter if we have free will? Does it matter if Calvinism is true? And does what you think about it matter? No and yes. No, it doesn't matter because God is who he is and does what he does regardless of what we think of him, just as the solar system keeps spinning around the sun even if we're convinced it spins around the earth. Our opinions about God will not change God, but they can change us. And so yes, it does matter because the conversations about free will and Calvinism confront us with perhaps the only question that really matters: who is God? This is a book about that question-a book about the Bible, black holes, love, sovereignty, hell, Romans 9, Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, C. S. Lewis, Karl Barth, and a little girl in a red coat. You've heard arguments, but here's a story - Austin Fischer's story, and his journey in-and-out of Calvinism on a trip to the center of the universe.

* * * * * * *

More from Wikipedia -


Monergism states that the regeneration of an individual is the work of God through the Holy Spirit alone, as opposed to Synergism, which, in its simplest form, argues that the human will cooperates with God's grace in order to be regenerated. To most synergists, regeneration is a process that begins when a man responds to God's initiative, repents, and begins the labor of loving God and his neighbor. Monergists believe that regeneration takes place as a single act in which God regenerates a man from his fleshly state and, thus now enabled, a man can believe, and that he inevitably and invariably will do so. [r.e. slater - this monergistic position thus describes what synergists call "prevenient grace" as explained above in my comment while also recognizing human free will as decreed by God's creative choice].

While most synergists hold that God initiates all the work but that the work of salvation requires man's "free will," monergists maintain that God alone initiates and completes all the work of salvation [res - sic, without man's acknowledgment or cooperation]. To a monergist, a person does possess human freedom before regeneration (if by freedom, is meant the ability to choose what one wants). Yet, a man; because of his unregenerate and fallen nature is in slavery to sin (i.e. man chooses sin; because that is what he wants); because he is dead in his sin before God's regeneration and in this state he is unable to choose God (because he does not want GOD; he may want the gifts from GOD, but not GOD). Synergists, on the other hand, have varying beliefs regarding man's freedom to respond to God. According to monergism, faith in Christ only springs from a heart first renewed by God. Among various arguments, proponents believe 1Corinthians 12:3 to mean that no one can possibly confess Jesus as Lord apart from the Holy Spirit's prompting and being a true conviction of his heart.

According to monergists, all men are conceived and born with an unregenerated human nature, and faith to believe is beyond the power of this unregenerated human nature. God [must] circumcise the heart. The apostle John is understood by some monergists as having recorded Jesus saying that we love darkness, hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19,20; monergists assume that "doing the truth" and "loving the light" in consequence are the results of God's irresistible grace which brings a love and faith enabled by grace. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own; since he is at enmity with God; and so, will not understand spiritual things (meaning the experience of loving GOD; i.e. seeing GOD's loveliness) (1Cor 2:14). Reading or hearing the word of God alone cannot elicit saving faith in the reader(1Thess 1:4,5). The monergist believes in heralding the gospel indiscriminately, and the Holy Spirit regenerates who He will, according to His sovereign grace.

Monergists know that once the "eyes have been made healthy" a person will inevitably follow God; because the Infinite is effective to what the Infinite wills to effect. "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Philippians 2:12-13. GOD always does according to His good pleasure; and no thing can stop an infinite Being's good pleasure.

Opposition to monergism

Synergists have a variety of beliefs. Many would hold the same views listed above in describing how God opens the eyes and ears to a person to both see and hear the Salvation of God before he has faith. They would make the distinction, however, that a man can reject this revelation and maintain his desire to remain as he is. They would maintain that God, in his grace, comes to all human beings to follow him, but he allows the "free will" of the individual to not respond to him. Some synergists believe that because man is made in the "image and likeness of God," he has the ability to make free choices for good or for evil. Other synergists believe man is unable to do good but God has extended grace to all people which gives them the ability to have faith in Christ (see prevenient grace). Synergists believe salvation is a matter of human and Divine synergy, not divine choice alone without human cooperation. Synergists interpret Biblical passages, such as the parable of the talents and the passage "If today you hear the voice of God, harden not your heart."[Hebrews 3:15]

Some synergists believe that monergism is fatalistic; because they interpret it to believe that a man is not free to resist God's (outward) call. Many monergists, however, would counter that when the heart has been regenerated, man accepts God's (inward) call freely and so would defend that their Christianity, while not predicated on "free will," does, in fact, involve their freedom. Opponents of monergism would argue that this type of freedom is akin to being free to take the one-and-only choice available. But again, if freedom is simply the ability to do as we please; then, how that freedom is brought to pass is irrelevant. Moreover, if we are at enmity with God, we will never be pleased to love or have saving faith in God; as synergism states that we can. See Romans 8:6-8: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

These arguments are both aspects of the general argument that monergism means that God chooses individuals without any condition provided by the individual (See the "U" in T.U.L.I.P. - i.e. Unconditional Election). Therefore, according to monergism, the only reason that one person is saved and another is not is because God sovereignly decided, without any conditions provided by the two individuals, to save one of them. It follows that the only reason people are not saved is because God sovereignly chooses not to save some individuals. Therefore monergism is said to lead to the conclusion that God does not in fact love every human being, as God's Word declares; " I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:" Proverbs 1:26-29. Nor want to save every person, as GOD's Word declares; " Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the Potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory..." Romans 9:18-23. By contrast, Synergists maintain that God does not save certain individuals because they do not desire to be saved. According to both monergism and synergism, God will not force His will or His forgiveness on those who do not desire it.

Opponents[who?] claim that there is no writing in Church literature prior to Augustine which can be construed in a monergist way. Yet, the Scriptures given above demonstrate that the Church literature (i.e. Holy Writ) in the time of Jesus Christ and the apostles could be interpreted to support monergism[how?]. However, this interpretation has not found favour with the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Churches, which have remained firmly synergistic.

* * * * * * *

Calvinists have long had 5 points (spelling TULIP) to explain the basic doctrines of Reformed thinking (many of the terms of which are quite misleading):


T: Total depravity – Every facet of every person everywhere has been marred by sin.

U: Unconditional election – God chooses those to be saved based solely on His will.

L: Limited atonement – Christ died only for those who are elect.

I: Irresistible grace – The elect cannot resist God’s call to salvation.

P: Perseverance of the saints – The elect cannot lose their salvation.


D: Diminished depravity – Humanity is depraved, but God uses prevenient grace to restore man’s ability to respond to Him.
A: Abrogated election – God bases His election on His foreknowledge of those who freely choose Him.
I: Impersonal atonement – Christ died for everyone, making salvation possible for everyone.
S: Sedentary grace – God calls everyone to salvation, but many freely reject it.
Y: Yieldable justification – The saved can fall from grace and lose their salvation.

Of course this only works for 5-point Arminians (i.e. those who deny all five points of Calvinism, which most Arminians I know wouldn't do, and many more combinations of some of the points but not others are at least consistent than most people have thought).

The DAISY acronym is much harder to pin down as there are several different versions. Also, many Arminians do not like the acrostic. Several versions of DAISY have been pushed by Calvinists as caricatures of Arminian theology. Many Calvinists seem to also enjoy making the lame joke that the Arminian flower is a daisy because they pull the petals off saying, “God loves me. He loves me not.”

*r.e. slater - basing election on God's foreknowledge assumes a "closed universe" where God fore-knows all things which will happen within this universe. However, for many a process theologian (myself included) the universe is in an open, evolving relationship to its Creator thus making any discussion of the what God will know in the future moot. Hence, the entire area of biblical/doctrinal foreknowledge might be thrown out. And when used in the Bible, to think of that area of ontology and metaphysics as an ancient apprehension of this doctrine alone. That in today's postmodern world of science and biblical hermeneutics, the philosophical idea of whether the future is closed or open from an "open theism" viewpoint is that it is open, not closed, to all possibilities, and not to some predetermined possibilities.

The good news is that God is still Sovereign without demanding that He "controls" His creation but allowing creation it's own freedom to become what He has decreed via free will. In creation's case this "inanimate free will" has been heretofore described as "indeterminacy." Thus, man has "free will" as an evolved sentient being but "creational will" as an inanimate object is "indeterminate" as evidenced from within its chaotic and random nature represented by the science of evolution.

Thus, the position of "free will" allows both its Creator and creation to evolve with one another through event and movement in an infinite number of actions and reactions. It thinks of the future more fluidly as "becoming" instead of the more static concept of "being." It allows the future to be opened while recognizing the teleological principle of restoring creation itself back into fellowship with its Creator (I will reference two articles below to further explore these ideas).

related articles - Open Theism and Process Theology (Wikipedia)

the reader may also review Relevancy22's articles on these
related topics via the topic column to the right

Hence, a third position, known as Molinism, defers to the idea of God's expansive foreknowledge based upon a closed universe where every action has been accounted for and thus, closes the future towards only divinely desired outcome and not an outcome based upon togetherness, collaboration, coordination of energy, between the Creator/Redeemer and His creation. It is a distinctly earlier doctrine based upon the eras of its conception both ancient and medieval/enlightenment:

MOLINISM: ROSES - A doctrine based upon God's foreknowledge (sic, Wikipedia here)

R: Radical depravity – Every aspect of humanity is depraved, but we are not always as bad as we could be.

O: Overcoming grace – God’s grace is persistent in the life of the believer, but it can be resisted.

S: Sovereign election – God desires the salvation of all, but our salvation is based on His choice not ours.

E: Eternal life – God grants believers eternal security in their salvation.

S: Singular redemption – Christ died sufficiently for all people, but efficiently only for the saved.

(Note, Timothy George, a Calvinist Baptist, uses the same acrostic as Kenneth Keathley, a Molinist. The differences lie in the way the terms are defined.)

* * * * * * *

Wikipedia - Open Theism

Open theism, also known as openness theology and free will theism,[1] is a theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. It is typically advanced as a biblically motivated and philosophically consistent theology of human and divine freedom (in the libertarian sense), with an emphasis on what this means for the content of God's foreknowledge and exercise of God's power.[2][3] It has been said that open theism triggered the "most significant controversy about the doctrine of God in evangelical thought" in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.[4]

Exposition of open theism

Open theism as a theological movement developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. It is typically advanced as a biblically motivated and philosophically consistent theology of human and divine freedom (in the libertarian sense), with an emphasis on what this means for the content of God's foreknowledge and exercise of God's power.[2][3] In short, open theism says that since God and humans are free, God's knowledge is dynamic and God's providence flexible. While several versions of traditional theism would picture God's knowledge of the future as a singular, fixed trajectory, open theism would see it as a plurality of branching possibilities, with some possibilities becoming settled as time moves forward.[5][6] Thus, the future as well as God's knowledge of it is open(hence "open" theism). Other versions of classical theism hold that God fully determines the future, entailing that there is no free choice (the future is closed). Yet other versions of classical theism hold that even though there is freedom of choice, God's omniscience necessitates God foreknowing what free choices are made (God's foreknowledge is closed). Open theists hold that these versions of classical theism are out of sync with:
the biblical concept of God
the biblical understanding of divine and creaturely freedom

and/or result in incoherence. Open Theists tend to emphasize that God's most fundamental character trait is love, and that this trait is unchangeable. They also (in contrast to traditional theism) tend to hold that the biblical portrait is of a God deeply moved by creation, experiencing a variety of feelings in response to it.[7]

Comparison of open and Reformed theism

The following chart compares beliefs about key doctrines as stated by open theists and Calvinists after "the period of controversy" between adherents of the two theisms began in 1994.[8] During this period the "theology of open theism . . . rocked the evangelical world".[9]

DoctrineOpen TheismCalvinism
Scripture (the Bible). "In the Christian tradition, the Old and the New Testaments are considered Holy Scripture in that they are, or convey, the self-revelation of God."[10]"Committed to affirming the infallibility of Scripture"[11]Scripture is "the infallible Word of God".[12]
God's Power. "God's power is limited only by God's own nature and not by any external force."[13]"God is all-powerful."[14]"God is all-powerful."[15]
God's Sovereignty. "God's ultimate Lordship and rule over the universe".[13]Portraying God as ordaining whatever happens reduces "humans to robots".[16]"Nothing that exists or occurs falls outside God’s ordaining will.Nothing, including no evil person or thing or event or deed."[17]
God’s Perfection. "God as lacking nothing and free of all moral imperfection".[13]Believes in "(because Scripture teaches) the absolute perfection of God."[18]Believes that, because "Scripture says" it, God "will always do what is right".[19]
God's Foreknowledge. "God's knowing things and events before they happen in history".[20]"God is omniscient" about "settled" reality, but the future that God "leaves open" can be known only as open "possibility" without specific foreknowledge.[21]Classically Augustinian-Calvinist view: "God knows the future because he preordains it."[22]
The Fall. "The disobedience and sin of Adam and Eve that caused them to lose the state of innocence in which they had been created. This event plunged them and all mankind into a state of sin and corruption."[23]God "does not unilaterally and irrevocably decide what to do". God's decisions are influenced by "human attitudes and responses".[24]"Ultimate reason" for the Fall was "God's ordaining will".[17]
Free Will. "The term seeks to describe the free choice of the will which all persons possess. Theological debates have arisen over the ways and to the extent to which sin has affected the power to choose good over evil, and hence one's 'free will'."[25]Promotes incompatibilism, the doctrine that "the agent's power to do otherwise" is "a necessary condition for acting freely".[26]Promotes compatibilism, the doctrine that "freedom" of the will requires only "the power or ability to do what one will (desire or choose) to do" without constraint or impediment, even if what one wills is determined.[27]
Free Will and God's Sovereignty. A "caustic debate" began about 1990 over "God's sovereignty and human free will".[28]Saying that God governs human choices reduces "angels or humans to robots in order to attain his objectives."[29]God governs "the choices of human beings", but without "cancelling [their] freedom and responsibility".[30]
Theodicy issue. "The justification of a deity's justice and goodness in light of suffering and evil".[31]To meet the "conditions of love", God exercises "general rather than specific sovereignty, which explains why God does not prevent all evil".[32] Also, God "does not completely control or in any sense will evil" because the world is "held hostage to a cosmic evil force".[33]Because "Scripture says" it, God "will always do what is right".[34]


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