What Is Open Theism as Opposed to Classical Theism?

Paul Tambrino, EdD, PhD

Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino


Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.

Question #36 – What Is Open Theism as Opposed to Classical Theism?

 

The tenets of open theism deny God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future.

While this theological movement affirms some aspects of the classical view of God, such as, God’s independence, the Trinity, creation, and relational capability, it rejects some of the classical views of God’s attributes, specifically the changelessness of God and the divine foreknowledge of human choices.

The name “open theism” derives from the affirmation that God Himself is open to new experiences, including the experience of learning the progressive events of world history as the events unfold.

It emphasizes God’s self-limitation in dealing with human beings. Because God desires people’s free response, openness theologians say, God neither predetermines nor foreknows their moral choices.“The name ‘open theism’ derives from the affirmation that God Himself is open to new experiences.”

In the Bible they say God changes His mind, or “repents,” in response to human actions.

The leaders of open theism are articulate, well-educated, evangelicals affirming the inerrancy of Scripture.

The “great triumvirate” of open theism included Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd and John Sanders.

Pinnock, erstwhile professor of theology at McMaster Divinity College in Ontario, Canada, is a British scholar who began his North American teaching career at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1960s.

Gregory Boyd formerly taught at Bethel College, associated with the Baptist General Conference, in St. Paul, Minnesota.“Classical theism affirms that God is unchanging in His being, character, purposes and promises.”

John Sanders taught at Huntington College in Huntington, Indiana, a Brethren in Christ school.

Throughout Christian history, orthodox believers expressed a common understanding of the nature of God labeled “classical theism.”

Classical theism affirms that God is unchanging in His being, character, purposes and promises and thus would label, as fantasy, any idea that God is ignorant of the future and would declare open theism a heresy that must be rejected on scriptural grounds.

Back in 2002, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) passed a simple resolution affirming God’s foreknowledge by a vote of 253 to 66 with 66 members abstaining.

The resolution read, “We believe the Bible clearly teaches that God has complete, accurate, and infallible knowledge of all events past, present, and future, including all future decisions and actions of free moral agents.”

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