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Briefly, the position is that God has exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present and knows as possibilities and probabilities those events which might happen in the future. God could have created a world in which he knew exactly what we would do in the future if God had decided to create a deterministic world. Consequently, God cannot know as definite what we will do unless he destroys the very freedom he granted us. Vincent Brümmer writes: “God knows everything which it is logically possible to know. But God knows all things as they are, and not as they are not. Thus he knows the future as future (and not as present, which it is not). He knows the possible as possible (and not as actual, which it is not).”1 God does not possess exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) of future contingent events.
Aristotle put forth the problem of the truth value of future contingent propositions (De Interprtatione 9), claiming that they could be neither true nor false. There were questions about how to interpret Aristotle’s remarks which led to lively debate among those who discussed this question. The issues involved in divine foreknowledge were much discussed by philosophers after Aristotle.
The dynamic omniscience view was affirmed by several non-Christian writers such as Cicero (first century B.C.E.) Alexander of Aphrodisias (second century C.E.) and Porphyry (third century).2 Cicero argued that if God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) then humans cannot have libertarian freedom so Cicero denied EDF.3
For the reasons used to support belief in an exhaustively definite future in both secular Greco-Roman thought and in Christianity see “Motivations for Ascribing Foreknowledge to God” by Gregory Boyd on this website.
Commenting on the work of Aristotle, Boethius and several medieval theologians held that statements about the future lack truth value yet they also held that God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF).4 Also, Boethius (see Consolations, 5.4), Augustine (City of God, 5.9.37-9), Bonaventure and Aquinas are familiar with the dynamic omniscience position of Cicero (see W. Craig, Problem of Divine Forekowledge, 59). Boethius also knows about Alexander of Aphrodisias who produced an argument similar to Cicero’s. Boethius and other Christians were more concerned to deflect the charge that Christianity implied fatalism rather than about Aristotle’s question regarding the truth value of future propositions. It was charged that if the God of the Bible predicts some future events, then the future must be determined.
These authors produce an array of solutions to the problem and those after them critique these answers and either modify them or offer new proposals. Most seem aware of the dynamic omniscience view but think that it either (1) fails to explain biblical predictions or (2) would imply that God has changing knowledge which would undermine their understanding of divine immutability. The great Aquinas (thirteen century) argues that if God is temporal (experiences changes of any kind) then the only options are determinism or dynamic omniscience. He says that a temporal God can only have EDF (exhaustive definite foreknowledge) if all is determined from prior causes. This is why he rejects the simple foreknowledge view because he thinks it removes human freedom. Another factor, for Aquinas, is that “the future does not exist and is therefore not knowable in itself” because it lacks being (Summa Theologica 126.96.36.199). For Aquinas, the simple foreknowledge view of the church fathers (the same view what will become dominant in Arminian and Wesleyan circles) is deterministic. He believes that if God is temporal and humans have freedom then one should affirm the dynamic omniscience view. However, Thomas argues that since God is timelessness God can know an exhaustive definite future without it being determined. The important point here is that Aquinas thought the dynamic omniscience view was a legitimate option and he thought it should be affirmed if God is temporal and humans are free.
After Boethius, the mighty river of EDF followed the channel of divine timelessness though there were a few other channels such as divine determinism. However, in recent Christian philosophy the flow in the channel of timelessness has been seriously reduced in favor of dynamic omniscience and middle knowledge
The earliest Christian proponent thus far found is Calcidius (late fourth century).5 He wrote several books one of which is against fatalism and determinism (this work did not become well known until the middle ages). In it he says that since God knows reality as it is he knows necessary truths necessarily and future contingent truths contingently.6 Some Medieval Christian writers anticipate and seem to affirm an open future: Peter Auriol (thirteenth century) and Peter de Rivo (fifteenth century).
Some Islamic scholars affirmed dynamic omniscience: some in the Qadarite school (eighth century) and Abd al-Jabbar, an important figure of the Mu’tazilite school (tenth century).7 In Judaism the view has been widely held. God’s statement to Abraham “Now I know that you fear me” (Gen 22:12) was much discussed by Medieval Jewish theologians, a number of whom affirmed dynamic omniscience and the open future including the renowned Ibn Ezra in the twelfth century and Gersonides (Levi ben Gerson) in the fourteenth.8
John Miley claims that some of the Remonstrants (Dutch followers of Arminius) advocated it in the sixteenth century.9 The Anabaptist Fausto Socinus affirmed it though he, unfortunately, also denied many traditional Christian beliefs such as the deity of Christ and the trinity.10 If one tries to discredit open theism because a heretic affirmed the same view of omniscience then should the Reformation be discredited because this same heretic affirmed several of the key tenets of Calvin?
In the early eighteenth century, Samuel Fancourt published several works defending the dynamic omniscience view including Liberty, Grace and Prescience and latter, in 1730, What Will Be Must Be. He argues that the issue is not about the scope of God’s knowledge but about the nature of reality: are contingencies real or not? Andrew Ramsay (1748) put forth a variant of this position, claiming that though the future is knowable and so God could know it, God has chosen not to exercise this ability in order to preserve human freedom. John Wesley (1785) reprinted Ramsay’s material on this in Wesley’s Arminian Magazine.11
The position became much discussed in Methodism from the latter eighteenth into the twentieth century.12 In the early nineteenth century the well known Methodist biblical commentator, Adam Clarke (1831), defended it as did the well-known circuit preacher Billy Hibbard (1843).13
Hibbard says that he learned of the view from an article in a Methodist magazine but he develops the position much more than the Methodists before him. In the latter nineteenth century Lorenzo D. McCabe, a Methodist theologian, wrote two large, detailed works covering every biblical text relevant to foreknowledge (for example, Peter’s denial) as well as numerous theological arguments.14 According to McCabe, dynamic omniscience was widely affirmed by British and German theologians of his day and he cites other Methodists who held the view. In America, McCabe’s publications sparked a significant discussion in Methodist circles that lasted several decades.15 John Miley, an influential Methodist and contemporary of McCabe, speaks highly of McCabe’s work in his Systematic Theology (which was widely used well past the middle of the twentieth century). Though Miley affirmed prescience (foreknowledge) he recognizes a key problem that he does not know how to answer: How can God interact with us in reciprocal relationships if God has prescience? He says that if belief in an interactive God is contradictory to prescience then he will give up prescience. He goes on to say that belief in dynamic omniscience would not undermine any vital Methodist doctrines and would, in fact, free Methodism from the perplexity of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.16
Quite a number of articles and books affirming open theism from people in various denominations appeared in the nineteenth century (see the “Open Theism Timeline” chart). These folks affirmed traditional Christian orthodoxy and were generally evangelical in orientation. Edward Pearson (1811). Verax (1818), James Bromley (1820), John Briggs (1825), James Jones (two books 1828, 1829), Onesimus (1828), John Bonsall (1830), Richard Dillon (1834), Robert Bartley (1839), Joseph Barken (1846), William Robinson (1866), James Morison (1867), William Taylor (1868), Hans Martinsen (1874), J. P. LaCroix (1876), J. J. Smith (1885), Thomas Crompton (1879), Isaiah Kephart (1883), B. F. White (1884), J. J. Miles (1885), Joseph Lee (1889), J. S. Brecinridge (1890), W. G. Williams (1891), H. C. Burr (1893), William Major (1894), S. Hubbard (1894), J. Wallace Webb (1896), D. W. Simon (1898), and H. J. Zelley (1900).
In the mid nineteenth century, the great German theologian, Isaak Dorner, argued that “the classical doctrine of immutability” is inconsistent with Scripture, sound reason, and spiritual living because it rules out reciprocal relations between God and creatures. He argues for dynamic omniscience saying that a consistent view of God working with us in history requires that God knows future free acts of creatures as possibilities, not actualities.17
In 1890 Joel S. Hayes published The Foreknowledge of God, a lengthy volume examining the scriptural evidence and theological arguments for foreknowledge and concluded that dynamic omniscience was a superior explanation.18 In the opening chapter, he writes “The design of this treatise is to deny and disprove the commonly received doctrine that God, from all eternity, foreknew whatsoever has come to pass. This doctrine, it seems to me, is contrary to reason and Scripture, and is in the highest degree dishonoring to the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity.” T. W. Brents of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement dedicated a chapter of his “biblical” theology to the defense of dynamic omniscience. His book was influential in the Churches of Christ for many decades.19
In the latter nineteenth century many people defended the view including Rowland G. Hazard and the Catholic writer Jules Lequyer.20 Proponents also include less orthodox thinkers such as Gustave. T. Fechner, Otto Pfleiderer, William James, and Edgar S. Brightman.21
Theologians include Jürgen Moltmann, Paul Fides, and Michael Welker.22 Contemporary Dutch Reformed theologians such as Vincent Brümmer, Hendrikus Berkhof and Adrio König affirm it as do the American Reformed thinkers Nicholas Wolterstorff and Harry Boer.23 Other theologians include Thomas Finger (Mennonite), W. Norris Clarke (Roman Catholic), Brian Hebblethwaite, Robert Ellis, Kenneth Archer (Pentecostal) Barry Callen (Church of God), German theologian Heinzpeter Hempelmann and perhaps Albert Truesdale (Nazarene).24 Major Jones claims that the position is well known in the African-American tradition.25
The dynamic omniscience view is exceedingly popular among analytic philosophers who affirm orthodox Christianity. Quite a number of the luminaries among Christian philosophers assert it: Richard Swinburne (Oxford), William Hasker, David Basinger, Peter Van Inwagen (Notre Dame), J. R. Lucas, Peter Geach, Richard Purtill, A. N. Prior, and Keith Ward.26 It is also affirmed by Nicholas Wolterstorff (formerly of Calvin and Yale) and Vincent Brümmer (Dutch Reformed).27 Several philosophers contributed to a book on open theism and science: Dean Zimmerman, Robin Collins, Alan Rhoda, David Woodruff, and Jeffrey Koperski.28 Timothy O’Connor (Indiana University) also affirms the openness model.29 Though there remain defenders of both theological determinism and simple foreknowledge, it seems that the majority of Christian philosophers who publish on the subject today believe that the main options are middle knowledge and dynamic omniscience.
Acclaimed physicist and theologian, John Polkinghorne, holds it as does mathematician D. J. Barholomew and physicist Arthur Peacocke.30
For those interested in biblical support for the dynamic omniscience view, the most important work is by Hebrew Bible scholar, Terrence Fretheim, who has over a dozen publications that document in detail the biblical support for this view of omniscience.31
John Goldingay, professor of Old Testament at Fuller Seminary, has defended it in his Old Testament Theology.32 The work of Boyd and Sanders also contains biblical support.
A number of theologians, philosophers and writers have affirmed the position. Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, Richard Rice, and John Sanders have produced several volumes on the topic.33
Other notable scholars include Dallas Willard, Gabriel Fackre, William Abraham, Paul Borgman, Henry Knight III, Alan Padgett, Tom Oord, and Peter Wagner.34 Researchers and popular writers include Michael Saia, William Pratney, H. Roy Elseth, Gordon C. Olson, Madelline L’Engle, and Brother Andrew.35
The position is affirmed by many YWAM leaders and leaders of the Ichthus church movement in England. Many Pentecostals are supporting it.36 Some leaders in a couple of denominations have spoken in favor of it: the Evangelical Covenant Church and Independent Christian Churches. The organization, Evangelical Educational Ministries, publishes copies of the works of L. D. McCabe and Gordon Olson: http://www.eeminc.org/prodserv.html.
In sum, the dynamic omniscience view was held by a smattering of people until the nineteenth century when serious scholarship begins to be published on it.37
In the latter twentieth century the number of proponents and the amount of quality works setting forth the position has grown exponentially. In part, the view is increasing in popularity in the freewill tradition due to its ability to better explain the biblical texts and give greater intellectual coherence as to how God relates to us.
Some evangelicals do not embrace the open view of omniscience but do arrive at views that have great similarity to it. Gilbert Bilezekian, professor of theology at Wheaton and theological pastor at Willow Creek (he has been Hybels mentor since college) puts forward a view similar to the open view. He claims that God can know what we will do in the future but decides not to know. See his Christianity 101 (Zondervan). Arminian theologian, John Tal Murphy (Taccoa Falls College), interacts with open theism and suggests that though God knows all that will occur in the future God has the ability to “block out of his consciousness” knowledge of what will happen. God can, in effect, “forget” what he knows is going to happen. God does this in order to enter into genuine dialog and interpersonal relations with us. See his, Divine Paradoxes: A Finite View of an Infinite God (Christian Publications, Camp Hill, PA 1998), pp. 49-56. Though I see problems with the views expressed by Bilezekian and Murphy, I am pleased that they understand the problems with simple foreknowledge and, as evangelical Arminians, attempt to find a plausible solution that arrives, for all practical purposes, at a position quite similar to the open view.
In addition, the evangelical Arminian theologian, Jack Cottrell has recently affirmed a temporal version of incremental simple foreknowledge. This view, in my opinion, arrives at precisely the same practical implications for divine providence as the open view. See John Sanders “Is Open Theism a Radical Revision or Miniscule Modification of Arminianism?” Wesleyan Theological Journal 38.2 (Fall 2003): 69-102.
McCabe says that Isaak Dorner wrote him a letter affirming McCabe’s thesis. Divine Nescience, p. 29.
by John Sanders
Wesleyan Theological Journal. Vol. 47 Number 1 Spring 2012
At a conference in Chicago in 2004, and after I had presented a paper on open theism, a Lutheran theologian asked, “What about rocks and trees in open theism?” My response was that the proponents of this model of God would love to apply open theism to such topics, but to date had been preoccupied with gaining a place at the theological table. That was then. Circumstances have changed. The time has come for the application.
The Open Theistic Perspective
Open theism as a theological movement now is sufficiently established that its proponents do not have to spend all their energies defending it. They can now explore the implications of the model for various topics. This is what this essay proposes to do. I will first summarize the open theistic perspective, then examine the nature of creation, the nature of redemption, and conclude with a discussion of the relationship between creation and redemption, with special attention to environmental concerns. Open theism is a model of God which affirms that God, in an act of self-Limitation, created beings ex nihilo with the intention that creatures would come to experience the love inherent in the Trinity.1 Though omnipotent, God exercises a type of sovereignty which grants considerable independence to creatures. God is “open” in two important senses. First, God is open to what creatures bring about-God is affected by creatures. Second, God is open to the future in that, even for God, there is more than one possible future. God has “dynamic omniscience,” meaning that God knows all the past and present as definite and God knows the future as possibilities. Also, God has chosen to rely upon creatures for many aspects of life and history. Consequently, God takes risks because not everything in creation goes the way God specifically wants it to go. God has often had to adjust divine plans and implement flexible strategies in light of what creatures have done with their freedom.
The Nature of Creation and God
With this basic understanding in mind, we can now proceed to a discussion of the nature of creation. Though open theism upholds creation ex nihilo, I want to point out that creation is more than simply the production of matter. In fact, creation should not be understood as a one-time event in the past which God preserves, but also as a beginning with a dynamic structure that enables the creation itself to produce new beings, events, and relations. In the Genesis accounts, the original creation contained some structure and was reliable, but it was not static or complete because God did not desire that it remain as it was.2 That creation is ongoing is seen in the divine can for plants and animals to multiply. With this shaping of the world in ways that are not predetermined, the earth will be different than it was at the beginning. God empowers creatures to bring about states of affairs that did not exist at the beginning. When humans, for instance, begin to occupy .. the land (Genesis 1 :28) that will take on characteristics it did not have on the seventh day. God chooses to bring about a world in which God is not the only one who makes things new and different. In this respect, creation is “open” because God instantiated a reliable but not fixed or static creation, which in some significant respects is open-ended. The empowerment of creatures implies that God is a “power-sharing” deity. God calls upon the waters and the land to produce that which did not exist. Next, God cans upon the plants and animals to procreate. That God does not do the procreating for the creatures suggests that the creatures have now become creators, resembling God in that they also bring forth new beings. Humans in particular are given a vocation to be God’s regents to tend the earth in God’s stead. In this respect, human vocation is necessary for the continuance of at least some aspects of creation.3 God entered upon a journey with creatures, one for which the outcome was neither predetermined nor foreknown. God works with creatures to bring about new realities.
An aspect of divine creation often overlooked is that God is not simply creator in the sense of producing matter. The story of God’s activity in the Bible depicts God working to produce new social, religious, political, and economic realities. That God is creator in these important areas of life will be useful later in this paper to connect the doctrines of creation and redemption. Having discussed the nature of creation we now move to an open theist understanding of redemption.
The Nature of Redemption
God took a risk in granting relative independence to creatures, and the risk has brought negative results. Creation has miscarried. Sin mars all the spheres of divine creativity just mentioned: our relationship to God, to the physical world as well as our relations with other humans.4 Each of the areas harmed by sin requires reconciliation and healing, which is why the New Testament contains a plethora of images regarding redemption and atonement5 Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the touchstones by which Christians align their life stories with that of Jesus. Jesus models loving ways of relating to others, overcomes hate with forgiveness, and is the ground of hope that destruction and death can be overcome. The incarnation and resurrection are creative acts of God by which new possibilities for the world arise. The resurrection of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit are indications of an inaugurated eschatology in which the “new creation” has already begun but is not yet completed. The eschatological future has broken in to the present. The renewal of the heavens and the earth and the various aspects of life contained therein are granted the possibility of redemption. Accordingly, I will briefly explore elements of this redemption.
1. Reconciliation of Sinful Creatures. First, redemption involves a reconciliation of sinful creatures to God (not God to creatures) as well as the reconciliation of creatures to one another. Second, redemption is addressed to whole persons and this includes bodies and minds rather than simply “souls.” The New Testament writers did not concentrate on getting immaterial substances to heaven after death. Rather, they were concerned with the welfare of embodied persons as seen by their discussions of such things as food, clothing, and employment Third, sin has infected all of the relationships in which we find ourselves, but God is working to heal the diseased relations by creating communities who work to overcome sinful racial, socio-economic, and gendered structures (Galatians 3:28). Fourth, the renewal which began in the resurrection of Jesus continues to spread and one day will culminate in a renewed heaven and earth in which there is no sin to fracture our relationships. The new creation has been inaugurated and God calls us to cooperate with the mission of God. One day the mission will be completed.
If salvation involves bodies, then it involves the physical order. However, many Christians believe that, although the “new” creation involves resurrected human bodies, it means the destruction of the physical world as it presently exists. Such a view can lead to a lack of concern for the environment. Two points should be made in response to this view. First, redemption is not the annihilation of creation but rather its renewal. Just as human bodies are not annihilated when they experience salvation in Jesus. so the present heaven and earth will not be annihilated but renewed. It is common for biblical scholars to point out that, in the passages about the new creation, “new” means new in quality in contrast to the old. Evangelicals in North America typically believe that ”the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). That is, God is going to annihilate the present physical creation. However, this understanding is based on a mistranslation because the text should read: ”the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.”6 The Greek word for what is translated “burned up” or “disclosed” is heureskein, which means to find out.7 God is going to reveal the truth about what has happened by refining creation, not destroying it.
2. Don’t Contribute to Creation’s Destruction. The second element of redemption is that, even if one remains convinced that the present world is going to be destroyed by God, there are reasons why Christians should not contribute to the destruction of the environment now. To begin, even if God is going to destroy it, there is no biblical warrant for anyone but God doing so. There is no biblical call to collaborate with God in destroying the planet, but there is biblical warrant for caring for the environment. Also, wanton contamination of the environment conflicts with the mission of Jesus. If Jesus is the model for the Christian life and Jesus healed the sick, then we ought to be involved in healing fractured relationships as well as broken bodies. Contamination of the environment fosters sickness rather than healing. If our discarded electronic devices end up in areas where poor people live and the heavy metals seep into the water supply poisoning the people who live there, then we are helping to make them sick. In the United States, cases of asthma are sharply increasing because of high levels of particles in the air. Coal-fired power plants in the northern United States produce acid rain which pollutes the lakes with high levels of mercury, and this eventually makes its way to humans via fish. Thus, we are slowly making our neighbors sick instead of helping to heal them. With this summary of an openness understanding of creation and redemption in hand, we can now address some specific issues. First, how should the relationship between creation and salvation be understood? Several items come into play here. To begin, creation is not a one time event but is an ongoing process. The history of evolution manifests the ongoing and unfinished nature of divine creation. As mentioned above, God’s original creation included a dynamic infrastructure with its own autonomy that allows for the creation of new beings, events, and types of relations. Next, the freedom of the creation entailed divine risk. The creation has taken some bad turns and now is deeply defaced by sin. Creation is the framework within which sin arises and it also is the framework in which redemption is carried out.
Furthermore, God is creator, not just of original matter, but also in the social, religious, and other areas of human existence. Sin has also distorted these aspects of divine creation. Consequently, redemption is understood as a particular dimension of God’s creative work in order to bring about a renewed creation transforming all of its dimensions, physical and social. Also, according to Paul, the Son of God, the redeemer, is also the one through whom God created the universe (Colossians 2: 16). The trinitarian God who worked to create us is the same God who works to redeem us. God has not given up on his creation but desires to renew it. The spoiled creation is the subject of God’s redemptive work, so creation and salvation cannot be isolated from one another. But neither can they be collapsed into each other because God did not create in order to redeem it. Sin was not part of God’s original design. God has had to adjust the divine plan to include redemption as a means to a new creation.
3. Refuse An Escapist Eschatology. Another issue is how to avoid an escapist eschatology which obliterates hope for this earth. Openness theology affirms the majority of traditional Christian teachings, including the resurrection of bodies to new life. Salvation is understood to include both the redemption of all spheres of life on earth as well as continued life with God after death in the new heavens and earth. Many proponents of open theism are evangelicals and many evangelicals believe that God is going to destroy the earth. Some interpret this to mean that, if God is going to destroy the earth, then it is not within our power to destroy it. Hence, they believe we can pollute and use up the natural resources because God will not allow the planet to be destroyed before the time set for its destruction.
It was mentioned above that this idea of God’s coming destruction of the creation is based on a mistranslation of a biblical text. An additional problem is that this false idea leads many evangelicals to conclude that God will take care of everything, so we need not do anything. God will miraculously overcome any problem we develop. One student voiced this sentiment when he said, “If we run out of oil, God will just make more.” The Calvinist theologian Calvin Beisner defends this notion by appeal to the Old Testament story of how God miraculously created more oil for a widow in order to pay off her debts (2 Kings 4: l-7).8 Because, says Beisner, nature is not a closed system for God, we can rest assured that God will not let us run out of natural resources. I reject such an idea as unbiblical.
4. Polarities To Be Avoided. Open theism seeks to avoid two polarities in this regard. They are the evangelical belief that God will take care of everything and the process theology belief that God will take care of nothing.9 Against the notion that God will resolve all of the problems unilaterally, openness affirms that God has granted a great deal of independence to creatures. Above, it was said that God decided to rely on humans by giving us a vocation that is necessary for the continuance of creation. God bas given us a task and we are failing God in some significant respects. We have seriously damaged God’s work and failed to achieve the mission entrusted to us by God. Yet, God has not thrown in the towel but has chosen to work to redeem creation.
Just as God elected to rely on creatures to continue the work of creation, God has decided to work through us rather than alone (e. g., to evangelize and feed the hungry). This means that God has chosen to be dependent upon our actions for a great many aspects of life. Does this mean that we could contaminate the environment to such an extent as to make life untenable? Since God has not prevented us from wreaking horrible wars, draughts, and the like, this seems a reasonable conclusion. It seems that God has chosen to solicit our cooperation in the divine work of redemption rather than simply doing it by God’s own self.10 Since God decided to make some important features of the continuance of creation dependent upon human vocation, the view that God is in total control and what humans do is irrelevant must be rejected.
The second polarity is process theology’s lack of eschatological hope that God will bring about the new heavens and new earth. The God of process theology cannot unilaterally cause an electron to move, so the preservation of the planet is decidedly on our shoulders, not God’s. The openness of God model affirms divine omnipotence and insists that God can work unilaterally within creation.11 The biblical record testifies that God has historically bought about that which did not exist on a number of occasions. Hence, we are not totally on our own. Proponents of open theism live in the tension between the two polarities of evangelical escapist theology and the lack of hope in process theology.
Salvation and Environmental Threats
How we understand salvation in the context of environmental threats is critical. For open theism, salvation entails both vertical and horizontal aspects. Redemption involves both our incorporation into the divine life and as our relations with other creatures. Again, two polarities need to be avoided: that salvation is only about getting to heaven or it is only about healing the planet. The “Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation” says: “We resist both ideologies which would presume the Gospel has nothing to do with the care of non-human creation and also ideologies which would reduce the Gospel to nothing more than the care of that creation.”12 Open theists believe that redemption is about both this life and the next because the salvation already begun will not be complete until God resurrects us to a renewed bodily life in the new heavens and earth. Open theists go beyond the process ideas of ”objective immortality” (God has eternal memories of what we were) or “subjective immortality” (the survival of a disembodied soul). Jesus was raised bodily from the dead confirming both that death has not the final word and that God continues to value physical existence.
ln addition to this eschatological embodiment, open theists affirm that salvation requires the transformation of embodied existence, not just the salvation of “souls.” Salvation engages every sphere of life affected by sin: economic, political, and environmental. James says that true religion is caring for widows and orphans (1:27) as well as feeding and clothing the poor (2:15). Paraphrasing James, we might ask how one can claim to love one’s neighbor while at the same time acting in ways that necessarily pollute the air and water supplies of our neighbors. The redemption of creation includes both salvation of individuals and healing of the environment because God wants to redeem every sphere of life affected by sin. God works to redeem whole persons, and the way we treat the environment affects our embodied neighbors. The renewed heavens and earth means the continuation of God’s physical creation, but in a transformed state in which we, as embodied beings, live appropriately with all other embodied beings. If God cares for embodied existence on this planet and will not give up on it, then neither should we. If divine dominion is enacted not by exploiting the land but by caring for it, then human dominion, which should image God’s dominion, should also care for it.13