Posts tagged Richard Rice
The Christianity Today interview with Royce Gruenler, “God at Risk” (March 5), contained so many errors concerning the openness of God theology that we are forced to wonder whether he really intended to give an accurate and honest account of our views. We hope he did intend this, but if so he failed miserably.
Gruenler says we are “Pelagian.” This is false. We, along with the Eastern Orthodox Church, Wesleyans, and Arminians believe that God grants us the “enabling grace” to come to faith in Christ. No human can initiate salvation as Gruenler claims we believe. It is correct that we affirm that humans have the God-given freewill to reject God’s grace, as do all forms of Arminian theology. But this does not mean that God’s power is somehow limited. God has all the power he has ever had. He is omnipotent and could bring the world to a close at any moment if he chose to do so. Though God lacks no power, he does not always exercise that power. When we wrestle with our children we don’t suddenly lose some of our power–we simply restrain the full exercise of our power. The issue is not about the extent of divine power. Rather, the issue is about the type of beings God decided to create and the sort of covenant God has made with us.
Grunler claims we have only an “aesthetic” view of the atonement. Though it may be true of process thought, it does not come close to accurately depicting what any evangelical openness theologian believes. We challenge Gruenler to cite any openness theologian who limits the work of Christ in this way. Though the openness movement as such is not committed to any particular theory of the atonement, we agree with Gruenler that Jesus’ death and resurrection are the divine means whereby God reconciled all things to himself. Apart from Jesus’ work on our behalf there would be no redemption.
On the problem of evil, we, along with all who use the freewill defense, acknowledge that God is responsible for creating a world where evil could possibly come about. Gruenler seems to think this is a devastating criticism that we have not thought about. Again, he does not seem conversant with our work (nor with any standard Arminian treatment of the topic for that matter). He correctly says that God takes risks in our view and that God has been disappointed by our sin. Gruenler apparently believes that God was not disappointed by human sin-that God actually wanted us to sin! His view entails that God not only ordained Adam’s sin but all the other evils we experience as well. In claiming that we bypass the “biblical” definition of human freedom (by which he means the Calvinistic definition) he identifies the biblical view with theological determinism. We, along with the vast majority of Christians, reject this deterministic theology. In our view, God takes the risk that we will not do everything God wants us to do. Hence, some of God’s desires may go unfulfilled-which is what Scripture says at many points–but this certainly does not put God himself at risk as Gruenler suggests.
Gruenler claims that we deny there can be prophecy. This is also false. Each and every author who has published on openness theology affirms there is prophecy and that the open view is the best explanation for all the types of prophecies found in Scripture. We believe that some of the future is definite and some is indefinite. God does not determine everything about the future, but he does determine whatever he chooses to since he is the sovereign lord of history! When Gruenler criticizes our view of God and time, he seems to assume that God has to be timeless in order to be omnipresent and omniscient. The issue is not about God being limited by the speed of light (something no openness theologian has ever affirmed) or the nature of time itself. Rather, the issue is whether or not God experiences sequence in thoughts and emotions. We believe the Bible teaches that God has emotions (e. g. grief, Gen 6:6) and can change his mind (Jonah 4:2) and these are things a timeless being simply cannot do!
Finally, Gruenler says our God cannot really help humans, but he fails to interact at all with what we have said about the nature of the sort of help the God of openness can and cannot be said to provide. God has all the wisdom and power necessary to help us-God can heal, guide, teach and love us. In contrast to Gruenler’s claims we believe that God is profoundly involved in our lives. Gruenler’s criticism presupposes that only a God who controls every detail-including our own decisions-can help us. We who embrace a partly open view of the future reject this assumption-but so do all non-Calvinist Christians. The idea that God might prefer to have creatures that he does not totally control never seems to occur to Gruenler. For him, if God leaves anything for us to decide for ourselves, then God is not really God and is not worth praising or worshipping. Many evangelical readers will find abrasive this cavalier dismissal of the entire “Arminian” tradition in the pages of Christianity Today.
Criticizing theological positions is a perfectly legitimate enterprise. However, his caricature of our position puts Gruenler at risk of failing to state his opponent’s position in a way acceptable to his opponent. Chris Hall and John Sanders have a forthcoming article in CT (May) that attempts to model honest dialogue between a classical theist and an open theist.
John Sanders, Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, William Hasker, Richard Rice and David Basinger
In this selection, William Hasker develops some themes from the book, The Openness of God, which he co-authored with Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders and David Basinger. After giving a brief overview of the book, he recounts the process by which, over a period of years, he came to embrace the “open view” of God. He then summarizes various stances on the nature of God’s providential governance of the world, and concludes with some arguments designed to show the advantages of the open view of God over its competitors. Mr. Hasker is Professor of Philosophy at Huntington College and former editor of Christian Scholar’s Review.
Note! You will find a response to the following article (also from Christian Scholar’s Review) by Alfred J. Freddoso, Professor of Philosophy at University of Notre Dame. You will find his response, here .
This article was taken by permission from Christian Scholar’s Review 28:1 (Fall, 1998: 111-139)
By William Hasker
God is not remote, closed off, and self-contained. Rather, God is open to us his creatures, to the world he has made, and to the future. We in turn need to be open towards God and towards the future he is creating for us. These are the central themes of the book The Openness of God.  The book is the joint product of five authors, each of whom had arrived at a similar understanding of the nature of God largely independent of the others. This general conception of God has been extensively discussed among Christian philosophers, and to a certain extent among theologians as well. But there has not existed any overall presentation of the view that is usable and accessible for students, pastors, and lay Christians. We aimed to supply this lack. We have been gratified by the reception of the book; many persons have expressed appreciation for the enlightenment and spiritual benefit they have received from it. Others, more attached to some of the traditional conceptions our approach rejects, have been strongly critical.  We thank the editors of the Christian Scholar’s Review for the opportunity to continue the discussion in its pages. The first part of this essay will briefly introduce the book itself. The second part will trace, somewhat autobiographically, the development of my own views on these topics. The final section will reflect on the understanding of divine providence, and divine action in the world, presented in the book.
Click Next Page to Continue