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Book review
The Openness of God:
A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God

Full description of book:
Clark Pinnock et. al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, Il, USA: InterVarsity Press, 1994). ISBN: 0830818529

Rating:

Scholarship: 4/10
Information content: 7/10
Spiritual content: 2/10
Overall rating: 3/10

Short Review:

This book is an interesting book written as a de facto manifesto of Clark Pinnock and others like Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker and David Basinger who have embraced this new teaching of theirs called Open Theism. Basically, Open theism is a logical outgrowth of Arminianism and denies that God has absolute foreknowledge of the future. Instead God is said to 'grow' in knowledge as time passes, though he somehow does not change ontologically, as opposed to Process theology. Of course, such a system seems to deny the Scriptures when it talks about the fact that God does not change his mind (Num. 23:19) and that God knows, even declares, the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10). Even more strongly, Scriptures seem to say that God does whatever he pleases and that NO ONE can stay His hand (Dan. 4:35). The onus, therefore, is on Pinnock et. al. to explain from Scriptures why their view is correct and the traditional view is wrong.

Reading through the book, it is my contention that Pinnock et. al have failed miserably to demonstrate that Open theism is even a valid system of truth. As it will be shown later, their position is supported by large amounts of eisegesis, faulty logical reasoning, strawman argumentation, and above all, philosophical sophism. Since that is the case, this book is given a scholarship rating of 4 and an information content of 7. As what they are promoting is contrary to Scripture, the book is given a spiritual rating of 2 and the book an overall rating of 3.

Longer analysis:

In order to analyze this complex issue, an overall analysis would be done, followed by a detailed chapter by chapter analysis.

Overall analysis

This book is split into 5 chapters, with each chapter written by one author each. The book is therefore more of a compilation of 5 essays on various pre-assigned topics given to the authors, and thus certain overlap may be present. The book starts off with a preface written by Clark Pinnock, followed by the first chapter written by Richard Rice on Biblical Support for a New Perspective. Chapter 2 is on Historical Considerations by John Sanders. Chapter 3 is on Systematic Theology by Clark H. Pinnock, with chapter 4 on A Philosophical Perspective by William Hasker, and David Basinger finishes the series in chapter 5 on Practical Implications. Thus, the authors attempt to cover various fields of theology, philosophy and Christian living in order to show why their position is biblical and superior to other views.

In the Preface, Clark Pinnock tried to showcase that this model of theirs is one that is most consistent biblically and philosophically, as well as practically, and is a viable alternative to that of classical theism on the one hand and process theology on the other (p. 9). However, right at the onstart, Pinnock made an error in enacting a strawman, in the area of petitionary prayer. OK, it is not so much a strawman as in Pinnock putting forward a view of petitionary prayer which is found within Evangelicalism but which is not embraced by biblical theism. Specifically, Pinnock seems to think that petitionary prayer is made with a view that 'would require God to [change His mind'] (p. 8), and that the reason why we pray is that the 'future is not settled' (p. 7). This is of course erroneous. We pray because we want to be used by God in the implementation of His will, and we will pray that 'Your Will be done' (Mt. 6:10b). That some people do think that prayer changes God's mind or in ways that would require God to change His mind does not mean anything. Pinnock may choose to interact with the inconsistent Christian who do so pray, but in order to prove that His position is better practically, he would need to interact with the biblical rationale for prayer and not the popular misconception that is here presented. We will look later in the book whether the traditional biblical position on prayer has been interacted with.

As we read the book, a major strain of thought can be seen to emerge. Open theism as a system develops primarily from philosophical considerations rather than from biblical exegesis, notwithstanding the protests to the contrary. This can be seen especially in the first chapter of the book, or rather the first essay, in which RIchard Rice has the honor and privilege of defining the Open Theism system and then attempting to muster support for his position from the Scriptures, while refuting criticisms from traditional Christian views, which we shall look at now.

Analysis of Chapter 1

Richard Rice starts by defining both the traditional view of God and then the open view of God, followed by trying to muster support for the open view from Scripture. We would look at the definitions of the open view of God first before examining the passages Rice uses in an attempt to support his position.

Humanistic pre-occupation with love

When one looks at the open view as set forth by Rice, it could be seen that the love of God is the central characteristic that is being focused on in this system. According to Rice, 'love is the first and last word in the biblical portrait of God' (p. 18), quoting 1 Jn. 4:8 to that effect. He further states that the 'statement that God is love is as close as the Bible comes to giving us a definition of the divine reality' and that 'Christian theology has always given this expression pride of place among the many descriptions of God' (p. 18). He claims also that 'there is widespread theological support for the idea that love is central to both the revelation and the reality of God' (p. 19). Rice then quotes neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics who states that 'God love because ... this act is His being, His essence and His nature' (p. 20). Rice further quotes the neo-orthodox theologian Emil Brunner who says that 'love is not a mere quality or attribute that God happens to have in common with other beings; it is the very nature of God Himself' (p. 20). Rice also quotes Walter Kasper and Wolfhart Pannenberg who both emphasized the importance of God's attribute of love. Pannenberg is also quoted as saying that 'Only in the love of God does the concrete form of his (God) essence come to expression.' (p. 20). With all this stated, Rice made the following statements, that 'Consequently, when we enumerate God's qualities, we must put love at the head of the list' and that 'Love is the concrete reality that unifies all of the attributes of God. A doctrine of God that is faithful to the Bible must show that all of God's characteristics derive from love' (p. 21).

From what has been seen so far, Rice has decided to place God's love as being of primary importance and thus the lens upon which all Scripture is to be interpreted, and this is the lens whereby he reads all of Scripture in order to support his open theism. However, does the Bible warrants such an emphasis placed upon the love of God, or is that something Rice has just decided to embrace without any biblical support?

Now, when looking at this topic, it must be said that Scripture definitely emphasizes God's love. What is being discussed is not whether God's love is important, but whether it is of primary significance, or more significantly, whether it only is of primary significance. My contention is that the attribute of God as love is not the only attribute of primary significance and therefore Rice has already erred in the first instance.

What does it mean for an attribute of God to be of primary significance? This means that that is definitional of God and is not derived from some other attribute of God. For example, God's mercy cannot be said to be of primary significance, as mercy is an attribute that is derived from God's sovereignty and God's love. The verse used to proof-text Rice's contention that God's love is THE only primary attribute of God, 1 Jn. 4:8, does not supports this thesis of his. Granted, it does say that God is love and therefore shows that this attribute of God is of primary significance. However, it is one thing to say that the love of God is of primary significance and another thing to say that ONLY the love of God is of primary significance. Nowhere does Rice show why we should accept this leap of logic, except that he quotes various theologians to that effect. However, in the absence of Scriptural support, this constitutes a false appeal to authority. Furthermore, of the theologians he quoted, of least two (Karl Barth and Emil Brunner) are neo-orthodox theologians who are unorthodox at best. Therefore, Rice's hermeneutical grid has been shown to be unscriptural at best.

However, even if we accept Rice's hermeneutical matrix, the question is to be asked as to what God being love means. As it has been said, the fact that God is love is actually bad news for us sinners. Because God is love, He must hate us sinners, since He is good while we are evil. Therefore, the only way that Rice's hermeneutical matrix can make sense is that the love of God is being redefined to a modern humanistic understanding of love. The verse Ps. 50:21 comes to mind:

These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. (Ps. 50:21)

With that stated, let us look at the biblical evidence.

The biblical evidence: Old Testament

Under Old Testament evidences for the Openness of God, Rice uses the narrative portion of Scripture to show forth God's feelings, as the 'inner life of God' (p. 24). He also quotes the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel as saying that 'Hosea ... came to see that the anguish his troubled marriage brought him was "a mirror of the divine pathos, that his sorrow echoed the sorrow of God" ' (p. 26), and that 'Whatever man does affects not only his own life, but also the life of God ... He is a consort, a partner, a factor in the life of God' (p. 26). Rice also used the narrative portions of the Old Testament to show that God changes His mind; His intentions, which we shall hereby look into detail now

First of all, with regards to the 'feelings of God', Rice has made a valid point that God does have feelings. However, the fact is that traditional theism does not dispute that God has feelings. What traditional theism has always believe regarding the attribute of God being impassable is that God's emotions are not involuntary and are controlled by God. In other words, God does not have mood swings[1]. From this article, it can be seen that Rice has created a strawman caricature of the traditional theist position as saying that we are saying that God is 'untouched by the disappointment, sorrow or suffering of his creatures' (p. 12), or that 'the real God of the Bible is made of sterner stuff. ... so the tender feelings we read of in the prophets are merely examples of poetic license' (p. 25). This is not true of the traditional theist position at all, and to caricature our position as saying that God is a metaphysical iceberg which have no true feelings is plainly wrong.

With regards as to how we can reconcile the facts that God has feelings without compromising his impassibility, we will say that His feelings are fixed reactions to circumstances that happen in time. Therefore, God will always have that feeling towards a particular circumstance and that feeling would be manifested when the circumstance presents itself. God therefore has control over His emotions which are an expressions of His many attributes. As an example, God would show anger over rebellion against Him because of His attribute of holiness which manifests in a hatred of sin. Therefore, it never be said that God changes in His feelings, just that they are manifested depending on what the situation is, which changes over time. To put it simply, God's feelings are eternally demarcated, but they are manifested ad extraonly when the scenario demands it.

With regards to God's intention, the easiest response to Rice is to point out that the fact that he is gleaning theology from narrative rather than didactic accounts. This is definitely an illegitimate tactic in biblical interpretation, especially since the didactic account (i.e. Num. 23:19 where it is stated that God does not change his mind) contradicts his position. In opposition to Stephan Charnock's position that when the Bible says that 'when God "turns" from love to wrath, or from wrath to love, this describes a change in the way people relate to God, not in the way he relates to them', Rice points out the fact that in the case of Moses' intercession, God relents in direct response to Moses' plea, not as a consequence of the people's repentance of their apostasy (p. 28). Rice goes further in saying that all these incidents whereby God seems to change his plans indicates that human intercession can influence God's actions (p. 29). In response to this assertion by Rice, we would say that just because a narrative seems to say that God relents and changes his mind doesn't mean that God ever intended to do that action anyway. As Rice has noticed, Moses' appeal in his intercession before God presupposes that God's ultimate purposes must be carried out, which would not be able to be carried out if God had destroyed the Israelites as He has threatened to do (Ex. 32:10). Rice, however, uses this episode to say that God's ultimate objectives requires Him to change His intermediate intentions (p. 28). To this, however, we respond and ask Rice where is it stated in Scripture that God has such an immediate intention to wipe out the Israelites. Of course, none can be found, for although God threatened to wipe them out, this does not imply that it is God's intention to do so. Rice has here confused between command/preference and intention[2], as if God expressing a hypothetical wish to wipe out the Israelites means that He will in actuality wants to do so. This is similarly the case with Jonah and Nineveh (p. 31) and the sayings of Jeremiah in Jer. 18:7-10 (p. 31-32).

Rice next attempts to utilize God's promises to David, as they seemed to be an unconditional one as opposed to that made to Saul (2 Sam. 7:15-16) and make a case that they are actually conditional as in the end, the physical Kingdom also ended. He then states that evidently God attached conditions to His promise, even they were not spelled out at first (p. 30). However, this only goes to show Rice's either ignorance or purposely ignoring the true nature of the Davidic Covenant, which is fulfilled in Jesus, who is an eternal King over His people.

Next, Rice got down to addressing the passages in Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 which state that God does not change His mind. To get around these verses, he states that 'the word repent in both instance is used synonymously with the word lie. ... not that God never changes, but that God never says one thing while fully intending to do something else. Only in this limited sense of the word does God not "repent" ' (p. 33). However, is that the correct way to interpret the verses? Is the word repent really the same as the word lie? Yes, there seems to be some sort of parallelism in Num. 23:19 between the phrases 'man, that He should lie' and 'son of man, that He should change His mind', but parallelism does not necessarily mean that the terms are synonymous; they only mean that there is some close relations between the terms. In this case, the close relation could be that both are things which are characteristic of Man. In any case, even if I were to grant the case for Num. 23:19, this would not hold true for 1 Sam. 15:29, where a different word for lie was used compared to that used in Num. 23:19 (Shaqar in 1 Sam. 15:29 instead of kazab in Num. 23:19). Therefore, Rice's contention that the verses actually mean that God does not 'repent' in the sense of saying one thing while fully intending to do another thing is wrong. Anyway, this is indeed a novel (re)definition of the word 'repent', which makes it definitely unlikely that the verses actually mean.

Rice next make a logical fallacy by saying that the sentence that 'God will not repent presupposes the general possibility that God can repent when he chooses' (p. 33). Using basic Aristotelian logic, it can be seen that just because there are elements from a set G (God) having elements outside the set R (those who can repent) does not mean that there are elements from G in the set R [G ⊃ ~R does not imply that G ⊃R].

The final part in this argument (which had been more philosophical than exegetical so far) is with regards to God's actions.Rice correctly stated that in a passage supposed to discuss biblical evidences, this was not the place to develop a philosophy of action (p. 36). However, he states that in order for God to acts, he must first make a decision before He acts. This has no bearing in the discussion, however, as God could be said to make all the decisions before the foundation of the world. Only if you postulate a God who changes His intentions could such a thing be a problem for the traditional position.

The biblical evidence: New Testament

Rice's main evidences for open theism in the New Testament centeres on the life, ministry and death of Jesus. From what he has written, it seems that his main thought is that: if he establishes the fact that Jesus has emotions and that he changes his emotions while on earth, then Open Theism is established. This can be seen in the statement he made towards the end of this segment where he states that "Identifying God with Jesus leads us ultimately to the conclusion that what Jesus experienced in the depths of his anguish was experienced by God Himself' (p. 46). However, is that a valid argument?

Now, it is irrefutable that Jesus experienced change while he was on earth. That is a given, as well as the fact that Jesus experience a wide range of emotions. However, to say that because Jesus experienced change means that God experience change is questionable. Jesus is indeed God, but God is not Jesus, as Rice insisted (p. 39). God is a Trinity; 3 persons in 1 God, and therefore the statement that God is Jesus is erroneous[3]. Furthermore, in historic orthodox Christology, we do know that Jesus 'picked up' a human nature at the Incarnation, thus He who was formerly only God as the Second Person of the Trinity is now 100% God and 100% Man. Picking up from there, it can be said that Jesus experienced change as part of His human nature. If such were the case, which it is, then Rice's entire argument would be rendered invalid.

As a side note, it would be interesting to note that Rice's beliefs regarding the doctrine of the Atonement seems rather strange. First, he misinterprets Jn. 12:32-33 cf. 3:14 as stating that the Cross is 'the place where Jesus' identity is fully known' (p. 44), which is wrong as a look at the context would show. Jesus is saying that the Cross is where He would draw people to Himself, in other words He would save His people from their sins by dying on the Cross, using an analogy to the status of the serpent which Moses made and raised up during his time. Further down, it could be seen that Rice regarded the Atonement as a place whereby God suffered to provide an offer of salvation to all. Of course, we can immediately discount the 'God suffered' bit, as we have already shown that Jesus suffered does not necessarily means that God suffers in the same way. From the statement, we can also see Rice believes in the theory of Universal Atonement and seems to play down the propitiatory portion of the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Problem passages: Interactions

In this section, Rice attempts to interact with the main passages that would pose a problem for the Open view. The first group of Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 has already been addressed above, so we would look at how Rice continues on from there.

Rice hereby acknowledges that God in some respects does not change as what Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 has said and in which he has limited to the expression to. Therefore, he states that 'both change and changelessness [can be attributed] to God if we apply them to different aspects of His being' (p. 48). He then states that aspects of divinity are completely unaffected by anything else whereas God's concrete relation to the world is where God is dynamic with respect to his experience of it (p. 48). This sounds all very nice, until you start questioning who determines which aspect of God get placed into which category. Which aspect of God are aspects of divinity? The list made by Rice seems rather arbitrary. After all, why must God's character be a 'divine attribute' since God would be affected by the things which would happen while on earth? It can be seen therefore that Rice has opened a Pandora's Box which has the potential to lead one back to Process Theology and Liberal Theology.

The next text which Rice interacts with is that in Ex. 3:14a, where God reveals Himself as the great I AM. Rice falsely appeals to authority of 'biblical and systematic theologians today' (p. 49), to say that our traditional interpretation of this text as being a statement revealing the ontological being of God is false, favorably quoting the neo-orthodox theologian Emil Brunner to that effect[4]. However, besides making appeals to authority, Rice has never tell us why the traditional view is wrong, and therefore the traditional view stands.

Rice next take on the topic of prophecy, primarily focusing on the genre of "conditional prophecies", or those whose fulfillment depended on certain human responses coming true. As an example, Jonah and the city of Nineveh was used. However, the fact of the matter is that God did not tell Jonah whether Nineveh was to be destroyed or saved in the end, only to warn and speak against them (Jon. 1:2; 3:2), thus the point is invalid. Rice next focuses on promises of blessings and destructions as stated in Jer. 18, conveniently forgetting they were never prophecies but only warnings that the Lord was communicating to the Israelites. Next, Rice made the astonishing claim that God intended Saul to permanently be the king of Israel (in other words David was an afterthought). This is of course not found in Scripture, unless you claim that when God expressed regret over choosing Saul, God is truly surprised by the events that have unfolded. Of course, since the kings and the ultimate King of Kings were to have come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and not Benjamin anyway, it could be seen that God's intentions have always been for David to be the king of Israel. not Saul (Saul was just an object lesson).

Rice's preoccupation with "conditional prophecies", however, blinds him to the more important fact of most prophecies which are not conditional at all, like the prophecies regarding the coming of Christ, or that of the end times, or even something as simple as the destruction of Jerusalem (Mk. 13:1-2). If the open view was truly correct, how could it allow for the possibility of the fulfillment of prophecies, especially those that are next to impossible to fulfil (like those of the life of Christ). Prophecy is thus a very problematic topic for the Open theists, unless they were to embrace at least a form of Molinism at this point.

Foreknowledge and predestination

The last major biblical theme which Rice addresses is that of foreknowledge and predestination. Consistent with his Arminianism, Rice attempts to use the Arminian prooftexts 2 Pet. 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 cf. Tit. 2:11 to say that God desires the salvation of all man, with 'all' here referring to every single person head for head, in order to make the point that not everything that God desires will be accomplished. Putting it broadly, the 'fact that God foreknows or predestines something does not guarantee that it will happen, the fact that God determines part of history does not mean that he determines all of history, ... ' (p. 56). Rice also uses the usual Arminian explanation of predestination in for example Rom. 9 as being a 'corporate call to service' (p. 56). In this area, Rice does not interact with the biblical texts unlike his opponents on this very topic and therefore his 'explanation' seems to be more along the lines of how open theism can fit into the Arminian system rather than engaging the Calvinist position. In fact, Rice calls Arminians to task on their interpretation of 2 Pet. 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 as being inconsistent with the classic Arminian doctrine of foreknowledge and more in line with open theism. I would leave the Arminians to attempt to defend their position from open theists like Rice, while agreeing with Rice that Arminianism is inconsistent at this point. From a biblical Calvinist perspective, we deny the interpretation of the Arminian prooftexts 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4 etc, and also the Arminian understanding of predestination. A look at Rom. 9 for example in context would demonstrate the error of the Arminian position, as they can for example never account for the analogy of the vessels of mercy and the vessels of wrath which are clearly referring to individuals in Rom. 9: 21-23.

Conclusion

After analyzing the Scriptures, it can be seen that Rice's contention falls short of what he sets out to do. The Scriptures can be seen not to support Open Theism, and in fact actually pose a lot of problems for it, especially on the topics of prophecy and God's foreknowledge and predestination.

Analysis of chapter 2

This chapter is written by John Sanders on historical considerations attempts to 'document the manner in which I [Sanders] believe the Greek metaphysical system "boxed up" the God described in the Bible and the tremendous impact this has had in shaping the Christian understandings ... ' (p. 60). It thus traces the beliefs of various philosophers and theologians throughout Western history. Sander's main point of contention is that the traditional understanding of God as being immutable and impassable is derived from Greek philosophy rather than the Scriptures. We have already seen that in the review of the previous chapter that Open Theism is not tenable in the light of Scripture. It would thus be interesting to interact with Sanders' thesis to see whether what he postulates is really true.

Sanders first starts off by suggesting that 'many of us do read the Bible initially as saying that God responds to us and may change His mind' (p. 59). However, I find such a claim questionable. Is he really so sure of that as being normative for most Christians, or only among the Christians he interacts with? As for this reviewer, I disagree with Sanders on this. Certainly, as a young Christian, our knowledge of God is very shallow. However, I have never thought of my prayer changing God's mind. God responding to my prayer, yes, but my prayer does not change His mind. When I pray, I believe that God would respond by giving me the best, which I secretly hope is what I want of course. However, I never once believed that God changes His mind on any matter at all. Sanders in this statement thus attempt to drive a wedge against the doctrine of foreknowledge using the perspicuity of Scripture, but it is invalid as his statement is not true at least for me and can never be proven to be true of Christians in general.

One major problem with Sanders' thesis is that to postulate that the concept (not just the language) of immutability and impassibility as applied to God as being Greek concepts and not Christian concepts, it must be the case that in Greek thought there must be only one concept of God in these aspects. In other words, there cannot exist in Greek thought concurrently the concept of God being immutable and that of being mutable, or being passable and impassable. If that were to be the case, then either way Christianity can be said to imbibe on Greek thought either way, since both logically contradictory positions are covered by Greek thought. And this is what we will see to the case in Greek culture. The gods present in the popular Greek religion are mutable and passable, whereas the philosopher's Ideal or idea of God is immutable and impassable. Since this is the case, how then can Sanders prove his position? We could say that the Open Theists view is actually the Christianization of Greek popular religion, and that would be even more accurate, since the worldviews of both the modern age and during the times of the Greeks are very similar.

The second major problem in Sanders' argument lies in the fact that he commits the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc (or reading causality from sequential turn of events). For example, when talking the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, Sanders entitled the section 'Philo the Bridge from the Greeks to the Christians'. Sanders said that for Philo, 'the Greek metaphysical understanding of divinity ruled his interpretation of the biblical texts that describe God as genuinely responsive' (p. 71). Sanders then carried on walking down the corridors of time to the early church fathers like Ignatius and Justin Martyr (p. 73), Tertullian, Origen (p. 74-75), Athanasius and the Cappodocian fathers (p. 77-80), and of course through Augustine (p. 80-85), the Reformers (p. 87-91), and down through the modern age (p. 91-98). However, by so doing, Sanders has only proven that the Hellenic thought of God being immutable and impassable was similar to that of the early Christians, and that the early church fathers struggled with the topic, all of which does not prove causality at all. As it has been said in the previous paragraph, that one aspect of Greek thought seems to win out over the other in being preserved in Christianity means nothing, for there are no other options between A and ~A (the law of the excluded middle). Sanders' essay, while interesting, does not prove his case at all.

From Sander's essay, it can be seen that Sanders is either not above enacting strawman or is ignorant of what the other position actually teaches. In numerous places, he states that classic theism teaches that 'we are like donkeys who go where the rider bids but cannot choose the rider' (p. 88), which is an expression of hard determinism or fatalism, that we conjoin the 'loving, interactive God of the Bible' with 'the static, independent God of Greek metaphysics' (p. 95-96). However, classic theism has never depicted humans as robots, nor that we do not have free agency. Sanders furthermore states that in classical theism, 'it became commonplace to deny any real suffering of the Son and it was difficult to speak of relationally within the Godhead' (p. 100), an assertion blatantly false within evangelicalism. Sanders has also used the underhand tactic of poisoning the well, as he said that the Reformers 'did not turn their backs on the entire Christian tradition to go directly to the Bible for their theologies' (p. 87), and that John Calvin denied 'the obvious meaning of the text' (p. 90), as if Sanders could very well read the motives of the Reformers, and of course of the early church fathers whom he accused of synthesizing 'biblical and philosophical God concepts' (p. 72).

As we survey the historical landscape, Sanders seems to distrust the providence of God in preserving true doctrine. Since the nature of God and of God's activity is so vital to Christianity, why it is that God cannot preserve His Truth from influence by Hellenic thought, as Sander insinuates? Why is it that such a vital topic has been corrupted so early in church history (~100AD) according to Sanders, and only rediscovered by theologians and philosophers in the late 20th century who have been influenced by liberal theologians and neo-orthodox theologians?

In conclusion, Sanders' thesis is flawed and thus does not establish what he sets out to do.

Analysis of Chapter 3

In this chapter, Clark Pinnock attempts to build up on the efforts of Richard Rice in chapter 1 and John Sanders in chapter 2 by looking at how various doctrines in systematic theology is to relate in an open theist view. Thus, Pinnock covers various doctrines such as the Trinity, the Creation, God's Transcendence and Immanence, the Power of God, the immutability and impassibility of God, God's eternity and divine knowledge. We would just look at a few of them here, skipping the immutability and impassibility of God section since they have been thoroughly discussed before.

First of all, we can observe that Pinnock, as with other open theists, places unbiblical emphasis on love and also misrepresent the classical theist position as being that of an aloof monarch. It seems also that he equates having a God who interacts with His people = experiencing the openness of God, which goes to show he doesn't understand traditional theism. Nevertheless, let's move on to the doctrines in relation to Open Theism.

The first doctrine to be discussed is the doctrine of the Trinity. Pinnock made the statement that the 'Trinity points to a relational ontology in which God is more like a dynamic event than a simple substance' (p. 108). This is indeed a strange statement, unless of course you define relationship as of necessity being susceptible to changes. The orthodox position is that the three person in the Godhead are bound in a relation of perfect love towards each other, which is not 'dynamic'. In other words, we deny that having a relation necessitates the relation being dynamic and subject to changes. I doubt that Pinnock is saying that God the Father can suddenly have a 'mood swing' and decided not to love God the Son, but this is what being dynamic mean; possessing a capacity to change in your feelings. Pinnock confounds matters by saying that God as a social Trinity is 'the perfection of love and communion, the very antithesis of self-sufficiency' (p. 108), and that God would invite us creatures to 'share the richness of the divine fellowship as His friends' (p. 108). From this, it can be seen that Pinnock has erred in his doctrine of the Trinity. First of all, it is true that each person in the Trinity is not self-sufficient as there is no communion in one person. However, what orthodox theism has always proclaimed is that God consists of three persons who is self-sufficient in and of Himself, having perfect and unchanging love and communion within the three different persons in the Trinity. Therefore, just because love and communion exist within the Trinity does not imply that God is not self-sufficient in and of Himself, since God is three persons in one God.

Pinnock's second statement above is also wrong, in fact very wrong. First of all, he confuses between Jesus as the Son of God & Son of Man and Jesus as the Second person of the Trinity. Jesus as the Son of God has taken up a human nature at his incarnation, and it is this human nature which invites us to be his friends and enable us to have fellowship with God. Thus, it is not true that God invite us to share the riches of the divine fellowship, as we can never as finite time-bound creatures participate in the eternal relationship between the members of the Godhead. What Jesus offers is that through him as the mediator, we have fellowship with God, but never to intrude into what we cannot enter into in the first place (the intra-Trinity relationship). By confusing between Jesus as the Son of God and Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, Pinnock has made a serious error. Without this confusion on his part, traditional theism has no problems with the doctrine of the Trinity and the loving relationship within the Trinity.

Pinnock's next take on Creation is consistent with his semi-Pelagianism. If one were to reject semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism, then Pinnock's point regarding the Creation is of no consequence, as we deny that there is such a thing as 'free will', especially as defined by philosophers as 'libertarian free will'.

Closely related to this is Pinnock's take on God's transcendence and immanence. The Open theist view emphasizes more on the Immanence portion and in fact have a strange definition of immanence. As opposed to God's immanence being defined as God is everywhere is all creation, as in there is no place whereby God is not around, Pinnock offers a definition of God's immanence that is panentheistic! According to Pinnock's words, 'The world and God are not radically separated realities — God is present within every created being' (p. 111), citing Acts 17:28 to the effect. Of course, Acts 17:28 is meant to prove God's immanence, but not Pinnock's definition of 'immanence', but that God sustains all things and thus every action we take is sustain by Him. Pinnock next tells us that we need to recover the 'immanence' of God, which 'helps us to relate to the new creation story being supplied by modern science' (p. 113).

Of course, Pinnock's suggestion is noting short of blasphemy! The world is not somehow part of God, as panentheism teaches! If that is what open theism leads to, we are to avoid it like the plague. With regards to science, Pinnock seems too enamored by it, but for those who know the truth, we do not have to kowtow to the idol of what is falsely called science, which is just pure secular humanistic naturalism in disguise. Science can never be used to prove truth, especially when it concerns events whereby no one could confirm the exact circumstances surrounding it[5].

Pinnock next talks about the power of God. In his system, of course, God cannot be omnipotent, as he himself admits[6]. He uses the 'love' of God as the 'primary perfection of God' to de-emphasize the almighty power of God (p. 114). Other places, Pinnock seems to just impose his emotions to dismiss a view, calling the idea of total control 'an alarming concept and contrary to the Scriptures' (p. 114), of course without showing why this is so, unless we admit his definition of God's love which we reject as being humanistic. When discussing the system known as biblical compatibilism, which reconciles freedom and determinism at the same time, Pinnock calls it 'sleight of hand and does not work' (p. 114-115), again without showing why this is so. What Pinnock does is to pull out the 'problem' of the Fall and of the fact of evil, as these somehow discounts compatibilism. Pinnock then pulls out a few example of apparent contradictions from compatibilism and then denounce them as nonsense, without showing why this is so. Probably this is so alien to his thought process. Anyway, Pinnock then postulates a god who has a 'paradox of strength and vulnerability' (p. 115). It is somehow interesting that for Pinnock, his god can have paradoxes, while other groups' paradoxes are nonsense. I think his double standardness speaks for itself.

With regards to God's eternity, Pinnock raises the philosophical question of whether God is temporally everlasting or timelessly eternal, and then argue against the theory that God is timeless. Regardless of which is correct, God is controller of time, as He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.(Rev. 1:8; 22:13), therefore Pinnock's contention that God 'enters into the experience of time' (p. 121), with the exception of Jesus during His Incarnation,. is unscriptural.

When talking about God's divine knowledge, the term omniscience is redefined by Pinnock as he rampages through systematic theology. According to Pinnock, 'omniscience need not mean exhaustive foreknowledge of all fixed events' (p. 121), which is a radical redefinition of the term. Of course, to support his stand on omniscience, Pinnock tell us that if the future is fixed, then we are not held responsible. However, this is a philosophical concept and is contradicted by Scripture, which tell us that we are responsible even if we cannot do otherwise, with the simplest example being that all Man would go to hell unless they repent, but no one can do so of their own accord, not to mention about those who did not even have an opportunity to hear the Gospel[7]. Pinnock supports his limited knowledge theory with evidence from the narrative accounts of Scripture, conveniently dismissing the didactic ones. In an attempt to put down the biblical position of God being omniscience, Pinnock post the question to us as to whether God 'could create a world where He would not be total control of everything, where He would experience risk and where He would not foreknow all decisions of His creature in advance', as God is all-powerful (p. 123). However, this question is just as stupid as the question as to whether God could make Himself don't exist. God cannot do anything that will compromise any of His attributes, and thus Pinnock's question is utterly nonsensical, on the same level as to whether God can make a round square.

Pinnock then make the remarkable statement that under the open theist system, 'more power and wisdom are required for God to bring His will to pass in a world that He does not control than in one that He did control' (p. 124). Problems of how to define which is harder for God to make aside (I personally think that it is harder for God to make a world whereby He can exercise total control and yet people operate as if there is little control over their lives), the question is not which is harder, but which is consistent with God's character and attributes, and on this Open Theism fails as shown in the analysis of chapter 1 above.

And with this, it is time to enter the lion's den of philosophy, the basis upon which Open Theism originates, with William Hasker,

Analysis of chapter 4

As this is purely philosophical in argumentation, I would touch on the points stated here rather briefly, as with regards to the errors of logical reasoning committed by Hasker, and any issues which conflict with biblical reasoning.

Early on, we can start to see something very pertinent in Hasker's thinking. Hasker was remarking that if God were to be imperfect in some significant way, then we might still worship Him but our worship would be thus tinged with disappointment, 'with regret for what "might have been" had God not suffered from this particular imperfection' (p. 132). He then mentions that we should reject such possibilities and to see in God the sum of all perfections. However, the entire reasoning exercise he undertook reveals something, that Hasker seems to think there is such a thing as perfection apart from God. However, apart from God, how can anyone define what 'perfect' means? If it is done according to philosophical arguments, then that shows the anthropocentricity of Hasker's thought.

The first error made by Hasker is with regards to perfect being theology, or rather the argument advanced by Plato to argue for God being a perfect being. Plato regards change as either for the better or for the worse, so therefore a perfect being, being perfect cannot change, for if he change, it can only be for the worse, and thus he cease to be perfect. Therefore, according to Plato, the perfect being must not be subject to change and is changeless. Hasker objects to Plato's argumentation and provides a counter-example of an extremely accurate watch, which definitely have different readings over time and whose perfection rely on it changing in reflection to the change in time. However, what Hasker has provided is not a good analogy, as a watch is build to reflect a change in a changing quality, i.e. time. However, God is not meant to reflect anything, much less qualities which vary over time, thus Hasker's analogy is erroneous.

On the topic of divine omniscience, Hasker uses a philosophical argument to prove that God's knowledge is somehow limited. He comes up with the following proposition: "Susan was married last Saturday" and states categorically that God knows the proposition for exactly one week: before that, He does not know it because it is not yet true, and afterward He does not know it because it is no longer true (p. 136). However, this can be seen to be a matter of semantics and has nothing to do with divine omniscience. In Hasker's case, divine omniscience means that God knows that on week (i.e. X) , the statement "Susan was married last Saturday" is true, and he know this fact [that the statement would be true on week X] before, during and after the week. To use temporally true statements to disprove that God knows the truth of a particular statement is wrong, as such statements by their very nature have a limited time span.

Hasker continues the rest of his chapter in looking at the various systems of theology concerned with God's knowledge and Man's free will. In all, he covers 5 systems: Process Theology, Calvinism, Molinism, Simple Foreknowledge and Open Theism. I would comment only on the Calvinism and Open Theism sections, since I agree with Hasker on the main criticism he has of Process Theology, Molinism and Simple Foreknowledge. In particular, Hasker does a masterful job of destroying Simple Foreknowledge as being absurd and leading either to determinism or a denial of foreknowledge, thus showing the inconsistency of Arminianism. Thus, it is true that 'If there are actions that are free in the libertarian sense, it is logically impossible for God to know in advance how such actions will turn out' (p. 148).

Calvinism

The first major objection that Hasker puts forward against Calvinism is that Calvinism undermines the notion of believers enjoying a relationship with God (p. 142). As with several people, Hasker puts the strawman objection that Calvinism makes humans into puppets who are controlled by a puppet-master, or a ventriloquist having a "conversation" with his dummy (p. 142). Hasker acknowledges that the analogies are inadequate and thus came up with the analogy of a robot whose program is designed by a computer wizard who thus can anticipate the robot's responses to an indefinitely large variety of situations (p. 143). As an analogy, this analogy sounds much better. However, it would do for us to look into Scripture rather than think whether we like the analogy being presented. Hasker however does not interact with the Calvinist view except to say that it is unappealing as an account of our personal relationship with God, and he does not go further into why this is so. Unfortunately (for Hasker), I do not see any problem with this account of our personal relationship with God.

The main objection that Hasker puts forward to Calvinism is the 'phenomena of sin and moral evil' He rightly says that it is inconsistent to say that God desires for all to be saved, when he has eternally decreed that some would be lost (p. 143), and I agree with him. That's why I have always denied that God desires that all should be saved; God only desires the salvation of the elect, but God has commanded and 'wants' the repentance of all Man. With regards to moral evil, Rom. 8:28 could be used to show that God is using all these moral evil, in fact all types of evil, for the good of His elect. All evil will in the end function to bring maximum glory to God, and that is our response to Hasker.

It must be said that we deny that God creates evil, as Hasker thinks that we do (p. 143). Evil is not something that has to be created. Evil is the absence of good, and thus it is not created as much as darkness is created. Just as darkness is created by removing light, so evil is 'created' by removing goodness. Therefore, God does not need to create evil, by not giving goodness, evil will result.

Furthermore, we would like to take note that Hasker's objection to Calvinism is purely philosophical at this point, without interaction with the texts of e.g. Rom.9, which is a pity, since Calvinism's strength is seen through the exegesis of Scripture.

Openness of God

As we look at Hasker's defense of his chosen system, we would first note Hasker's first shot at Calvinism, as questioning whether we Calvinists are unable to conceive of an open theist world, and why do we think that God would prefer a world whereby he controls everything (p. 151). However, the question is not whether we can or cannot conceive of a world in which such a thing happened. The question has always been whether that is what the Scriptures say of how God relates to the world, not whether that is 'restrictive' of God.

Hasker, in his attack of Calvinism, states that God deliberately chosen to cause all the horrible evils that afflict our world. This is not exactly true, as it equivocates on the word 'deliberately' to smear Calvinism as saying that God is the 'author of evil', whereas God, though sovereignly allowing evil, does not Himself create evil, as God being good cannot do evil. However, if we embrace the god of Open theism instead, what do we have but a god who is perpetually distressed due to all the evil on the earth, and who will do little to stop it, because otherwise it would 'violate' someone's freedom. Would you call someone who has the power to stop Hitler's Holocaust but didn't do so good? But that is what Open Theism would lead to, all done in the name of 'not violating someone's free will'. The Open theists can try to say that we Calvinists believe that God allowed Hitler to come and create the Holocaust, and that was His will. However, for the Open Theists, their god would see Hitler come into power, got surprised by the atrocities he committed, and yet did not stop him but wait for other people to do so. Therefore, the open theists have not themselves escape the problem they have posed to us. I would submit, of course, that only when we realize that God is using all these evils, no matter how bad they are, for a much greater good and His greater glory can we then resolve this problem.

I would close off with Hasker's interesting and heretical take on conversion. Hasker seems to think that believing in Christ is analogous to a quantum event. Thus, he says that 'even if it is possible, on the open view of God, for all human beings without exception to reject salvation, still this might be overwhelming improbable — so impossible that the risk of such an outcome is negligible' (p. 153). He likens such a scenario to that of all the oxygen in a room concentrating in a small volume, leaving the rest of the room devoid of oxygen and unable to sustain life, which is impossible. In this, Hasker errs as in denying Total Depravity as taught in Rom. 3:12-18 .

In conclusion of this section, Hasker has been shown not to able to prove the superiority of the Open Theism position from a philosophical perspective, only to show that is is possible within a certain paradigm. Also, Hasker's attempted attack on Calvinism has been shown to be not well-founded.

Analysis of chapter 5

In this final chapter, David Basinger decides to look at the implications the open view of God would have on 5 major areas of Christian living and theology, namely Petitionary prayer, discernment of God's will, appropriate Christian explanation(s) for evil, appropriate Christian response to social problems and the Christian's evangelistic obligations (p. 156). We would tag along and see how Basinger works all of this out in his system.

Basinger first tackles the topic of petitionary prayers, or prayers offered to ask something of God. Basinger acknowledges that proponents of specific sovereignty, which includes most who call themselves Calvinists, do believe that there are certain things God would not do if prayer was not offered, but that if it is God's will that such things be carried out, then such a prayer would definitely be offered (p. 158). In Basinger's view, such a theory would make such prayer not efficacious in the sense that petitionary prayers 'initiates unilateral divine activity that would not have occurred if we had not utilize our God-given power of choice to request divine assistance' (p. 160). In other words, without the exercise of genuine libertarian free will, petitionary prayer cannot be said to efficacious in Basinger's view. Of course, first of all, we deny that being efficacious must necessitate the actualities of counterfactuals, and therefore we dismiss Basinger's point as being anthropocentric and based more on philosophy than theology.

Let us then look then into Basinger's own view of petitionary prayer. As can be expected, since God is supposed to respect the free will of the creature, the problem the open theist view faces concerns petitionary prayers being offered on behalf of another person. As Basinger states, 'most of us affirm the open view of God doubt that He would override the freedom of one individual primarily because He was asked to do so by another' (p. 161). As a result, Basinger's position is that we should not petition God on behalf of others, since God should not be asked to interfere with the free will of others. To allow for more variety of views, Basinger, quoting his compatriots William Hasker and John Sanders, says that some of his fellow Open Theists believe that such prayers offered on behalf of another could result in God using all the noncoercive influence that He can justifiably exert on the person being prayed for (p. 161). Therefore, in other words, even if we allow for Hasker's and Sanders' position, God may still fail in accomplishing what He sets out to do. Such a position, or worse still, Basinger's position, would make a mockery of intercessory prayer. It is a fact that Christian worldwide pray that God will bring their loved ones to salvation, but according to Basinger, that is folly, while Hasker's and Sanders' position make God powerless to ensure an answer to such a prayer, except 'I tried'. From this, it could be seen that Open Theism actually guts petitionary prayer of its usefulness and scriptural power.

With regards to the next topic of God's guidance, Basinger frankly acknowledges the troubles his system would face with regards to this topic, but insists that other systems also have faults and thus The Open Theist system is more liveable, stating that at least Open Theists do not need to continually wonder whether they are following God's will for their lives. However, that is only applicable to those who do not understand how God's will is worked through their lives, and therefore want visible if not audible guidance. For those who are more interested in following the commands and decrees of God, this is a non-issue. When discussing human suffering, Basinger dismisses the Calvinist belief of evil being nongratuitous — that evil must be viewed as a necessary means to a greater good in the sense that it is something that God causes or allows because it is a necessary component in His preordained plan. Basinger, unlike Hasker, merely denies that evil is nongratuitous and is honest enough to state that for him, he rejects such reasoning because of the psychological benefits it gives him.

Basinger then takes on the topic of Social Responsibility. On this topic, he critiques the specific sovereignty system as saying that since God is the primary reason why something is so, then there is less impetus for us to correct social ills, as opposed to the Open theist position whereby whatever we do would make a 'real impact' on the world (p. 172). This is the same argument he advanced against Calvinism with regards to Evangelistic Responsibility, in saying that in Calvinism, it can never be said that 'we [humans] bear direct responsibility for the status of any other person's relationship with God' (p. 174), whereas in the Open Theist system, such a statement could be said. In both of these criticisms, Basinger makes the same error as almost all non-Calvinists in assuming that somehow ability or inability implies responsibility. Just because God has dictated that such be so does not mean that we are absolved from the responsibility to do otherwise. Our responsibility is tied to what God demands of us, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what God has caused to happen. Furthermore, it could be the case whereby God would be using us to correct some social ill or to share the Gospel with someone, and who are we to suggest otherwise? No one knows the secret things of God (Deut. 29:29) and thus we should not try to second-guess whether such a social ill is indeed God's will or whether his will is for us to do something about it. Similarly, in evangelism, we should not EVEN attempt to second-guess God in deciding whether this person or that person is predestined to heaven or hell but to obey God in proclaiming the Gospel and leaving the results to Him. Basinger thus make the same fallacy of confusing ability and responsibility, and thus his arguments are invalid.

Conclusion

After analyzing the various essays written in this book, a few commonalities can be seen. All of them have a humanistic view of the love of God and make all other attributes of God subservient to what they think is the love of God. Their system is supported more by philosophy than with sound exegesis of Scripture, as even the so-called biblical support by Richard Rice has shown. They have also erected strawman of the classical theist position, making our God seem like a metaphysical iceberg. After analyzing all their arguments, it could be safely said that their position is found wanting scripturally, historically, theologically and practically, and philosophically not superior to other systems especially the traditional biblical view. As such, since the topic is of such vital importance and they have been found to be wrong, Open theism is declared to be heresy, and their proponents called to repentance in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


References:

[1] God without Mood Swings (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/impassib.htm) by Phil R. Johnson

[2] This is the same confusion made by many of the 'common grace'/ 'well-meant offer of the Gospel' crowd. Just because God expresses a preference and even pleads for sinner to repent does not mean that he desire their [actual] repentance.

[3] Oneness Pentecostals are a group which do make that claim, but they are not orthodox in their Christology.

[4] According to Emil Brunner, it is a "disastrous misunderstanding" to treat this expression as an ontological definition of God (Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 120, 128-129). As quoted in Pinnock et. al, The Openness of God, Chapter 1 endnote 71

[5] This is especially in the field called historical sciences, which evolution is part of. A major presupposition for the theory of evolution is the philosophy of uniformitarianism, which is itself not provable. If this philosophy is wrong, then the entire evolution 'story' falls apart.

[6] In a world reflecting a triune community, God does not monopolize the power. (p. 113)

[7] It is fact that some open theists, because of their embrace of Open Theism, consistently reject the exclusivity of Christ's gospel and thus grow deeper into heresy.