On Divine Ambivalence: Open Theism And The Problem Of Particular Evils -- By: Paul Kjoss Helseth

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 44:3 (Sep 2001)
Article: On Divine Ambivalence: Open Theism And The Problem Of Particular Evils
Author: Paul Kjoss Helseth


On Divine Ambivalence:
Open Theism And The Problem Of Particular Evils

Paul Kjoss Helseth*

[* Paul Kjoss Helseth is assistant professor of Bible and philosophy at Northwestern College, 3003 Snelling Avenue North, St. Paul, MN 55113–1598.]

Throughout the history of the Christian Church, orthodox theologians have claimed that God is an omniscient being who has exhaustive knowledge of the whole scope of cosmic history. God’s knowledge is exhaustive, they argue, because he knows all true propositions about everything that has been, is, and will be, and he does so in a manner that extends to the minutiae of past, present, and future reality. But if it is indeed true that God knows everything there is to know about the whole scope of cosmic history, then how are we to conceive of the relationship between divine omniscience and human freedom? Must we conclude that we are less than genuinely free because God knows everything there is to know about what has been, is, and will be—including the future free decisions of his creatures? Or, must we rather acknowledge that God is less than exhaustively omniscient because we in fact are significantly free?

Whereas orthodox theologians have historically maintained that the perceived tension between divine omniscience and human freedom can be satisfactorily explained by conceiving of omniscience in any one of several ways that neither undermine the authenticity of human freedom nor compromise the scope of God’s sovereign knowledge, 1 contemporary postconservative theologians would have us believe that such conceptions no longer pass muster. New interpretations of the relationship between divine omniscience and human freedom are in order, they argue, not only because classical interpretations are lacking in exegetical sophistication, but also because traditional interpretations are no longer palatable to philosophically astute theologians living at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

How, then, do these theologians suppose that we should conceive of the relationship between divine omniscience and human freedom? Should we resolve the apparent tension by suggesting that we are free but God is less

than exhaustively omniscient? Or, should we rather conclude that God in fact is exhaustively omniscient but our freedom is a mere illusion? This essay examines and critiques the resolution to these questions that is proposed by the school of thought known as Open Theism, and it does so through an analysis of selected works by Gregory Boyd, one of Open Theism’s most articulate defenders. It suggests, in short, that the openness program is “deeply flawe...

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