The Camel’s Nose: Open Theism And Biblical Interpretation -- By: Benjamin H. Arbour

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 171:683 (Jul 2014)
Article: The Camel’s Nose: Open Theism And Biblical Interpretation
Author: Benjamin H. Arbour

The Camel’s Nose: Open Theism And Biblical Interpretation

Benjamin H. Arbour


Douglas K. Blount

Benjamin H. Arbour is a Ph.D. candidate, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom, and Douglas K. Blount is Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

“If the camel gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”

—Ancient Arabian Proverb

Open theists have offered two types of arguments for their view. Some have mustered philosophical arguments against exhaustive divine foreknowledge.1 Others have offered biblical-theological arguments in favor of their account of such knowledge.2 What follows examines the latter type of argument, for while the philosophical arguments remain unconvincing, they are coherent and interesting. The current biblical-theological arguments in favor of openness, however, seem not only unsuccessful but also naïve or disingenuous. Specifically, open readings of Scripture, despite claims to the contrary, are as driven by philosophical presuppositions as the interpretations they are intended to supplant.

This article discusses the interpretive practices typical of open theists as well as theological consequences of those practices. It defends the reading of Scripture put forward by traditional Christian

orthodoxy (hereafter, “the tradition”) by undermining the hermeneutical principles espoused by open theists. Traditional theists usually respond to open theists by attacking, either philosophically or theologically, their conclusions. While some such responses mention aspects of openness hermeneutics in passing, the discussion has largely dealt with hermeneutical issues piecemeal and in fits and starts.3 The present article begins by noting numerous unsubstantiated assumptions that drive open readings of Scripture. It then argues that such readings do not arise in a philosophical vacuum. Finally, it discusses anthropomorphic interpretation and points out incongruity in open theists’ readings concerning which texts should be taken “literally.” The flawed interpretive practices underlying open readings would, if applied consistently, lead to an unacceptable account of God’s nature and an untenable view of His wisdom. The argument concerning divine wisdom gives special attention to Genesis 22, a passage to which open theists often appeal.

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