Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical? -- By: Bruce A. Ware

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:2 (Jun 2002)
Article: Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical?
Author: Bruce A. Ware

Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically:
Is Open Theism Evangelical?

Bruce A. Ware*

* Bruce Ware is senior associate dean of the School of Theology and professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280. This paper was delivered at the 53rd annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Colorado Springs, CO, November 15, 2001.

I. Introduction

Clark Pinnock is exactly right. After noting (correctly) in his Most Moved Mover that Arminians and Augustinians have co-existed throughout much of the church’s history, and that a number of evangelical theologians today (and not just open theists) are working toward refinements in an evangelical doctrine of God, he asks, “Why draw the line at foreknowledge?”1 A few pages later, he returns to this question: “In raising the issue of the divine foreknowledge, we have not transgressed some rule of theological discourse and placed ourselves outside the pale of orthodoxy. Why can an evangelical not propose a different view of this matter? What church council has declared it to be impossible? Since when has this become the criterion of being orthodox or unorthodox, evangelical or not evangelical?”2

What does Pinnock mean when he says that open theists have raised the issue of divine foreknowledge? Simply this: Open theism affirms God’s exhaustive knowledge of the past and present, but it denies exhaustive divine foreknowledge, in that it denies that God knows—or can know—the future free decisions and actions of his moral creatures, even while it affirms that God knows all future possibilities and all divinely determined and logically-necessary future actualities. As William Hasker explains, “Since the future is genuinely open, since it is possible for a free agent to act in any of several different ways, it follows that it is not possible for God to have complete and exhaustive knowledge of the entire future.”3 So, the specific denial of exhaustive divine foreknowledge is embraced in open theism as central and essential to its own identity.

And essential it is. For to open theists, the very notion of the future’s “openness” is only viable if future free choices and actions are both fully

unknown and fully unknowable to God. Were God to know some future choice, say, of what you will have for dinner this evening, since God’s knowledge is infallible, it must be the case that you will have for dinner what God knows you will...

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