Open Theism: Good Try, But No Dice -- By: L. Russ Bush

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 21:2 (Spring 2004)
Article: Open Theism: Good Try, But No Dice
Author: L. Russ Bush

Open Theism: Good Try, But No Dice

L. Russ Bush

Senior Professor of Philosophy of Religion
Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

“It is plain nonsense for a man to admit that God exists and then to deny that He can know the future.” —Augustine City of God 5.9.

Our evangelical world has been rocked by the discovery of a loophole in our system. Somehow we thought that our doctrine of biblical inerrancy would be sufficient to ground the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. One can tolerate the diversity of denominational distinctives, and one can recognize a variety of reasonable interpretations of biblical texts, but one cannot affirm that theologian who says that the authentic teaching of the Bible is wrong. Without an objective standard, one has no meaningful way to seek theological agreement. This affirmation of biblical inerrancy does not bring unity in all things, but we thought it would preserve the essentials of orthodoxy.

Enter open theism. Many of the leaders of this new theological movement are members of the Evangelical Theological Society, and thus they annually sign a statement affirming their belief in biblical inerrancy.1 Open theists, however, found a loophole in the doctrine of inerrancy that allowed them to say that the Bible inerrantly taught that there were some things in the Bible about which God might have been—and perhaps was—wrong.

The term “open theism” is not self-explanatory. The moniker seemingly arises from the shortening of a clearer phrase, “the openness of God.” Even that phrase is not especially helpful to the uninitiated ear. “Open theism” is a reference to a view of God that sees Him as being open to change rather than being eternally without change.2 The future, according to this view, is not determined or foreordained by God but is open to a variety of possibilities.3

Traditionally, God has been viewed as an absolutely unique Being. God is eternal; the world, on the other hand, had a beginning and will have an end. God is not simply powerful, but He is all-powerful. He is the source of all the power that exists in all creation. He is an inexhaustible source of power, and He can do all things.4

God also was understood as a Being whose nature and existence remains constant and without innovative change (the same yesterday, today, and forever). He is the Creator and the Sustainer of all contingent r...

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