Does Classical Theism Deny God’s Immanence? -- By: C. Fred Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:637 (Jan 2003)
Article: Does Classical Theism Deny God’s Immanence?
Author: C. Fred Smith

Does Classical Theism Deny God’s Immanence?

C. Fred Smitha

The concept of the openness of God has recently gained a foothold among some evangelical thinkers. Others who have sought to refute this view have done so by emphasizing God’s transcendent qualities. This article examines the criticism of classical theism by advocates of open theism and seeks to demonstrate that they portray classical theism inaccurately and that they have accepted a false understanding of God.

Overview of Open Theism

The movement’s foundational text is The Openness of God, published in 1994.1 Most of what open theists have said since then amounts to a reiteration of arguments made in that book. Basic to open theism is the idea that God’s being is analogous to that of humans, and so God experiences reality in ways similar to the experiences of human beings. As evidence of this point Rice cites the fact that humankind is created in the image of God.2 In addition

Rice asserts that the incarnation of Jesus Christ shows that “God’s experience has something in common with certain aspects of human experience.”3 This commonality is continuous in God’s experience both before and after the Incarnation.

A number of implications follow from this. God has intentions; He makes plans and sets goals for Himself and for His creation. These goals He “pursues over time and in different ways.”4 For example He has often revealed in the Bible the plans and intentions He has for Israel.

In carrying out His plans and intentions, God reacts to His creation. In Genesis 6:6 God wished He had not made humankind, and Scripture elsewhere speaks of God repenting of certain of His actions or intentions.5 This understanding, Rice asserts, makes prayer intelligible, for “intercession can influence God’s actions.”6

Rice contends, again based on the analogy of human experience, that if God acts, as Scripture so often asserts, then God must change, for “act involves change.”7 Since any act human beings perform requires motion, and motion requires change, if only of position in space and time, then any analogous act that God might pe...

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