Be Wary Of Ware: A Reply To Bruce Ware -- By: John Sanders

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:2 (Jun 2002)
Article: Be Wary Of Ware: A Reply To Bruce Ware
Author: John Sanders

Be Wary Of Ware:
A Reply To Bruce Ware

John Sanders*

* John Sanders is professor of philosophy at Huntington College, 2303 College Ave., Huntington, IN 46750.

No theological position is immune to question or free from problems. I admit that open theism has questions that we have yet to answer and areas that need further development. Ware’s paper brings out a few of these, and I appreciate his thinking on these points. On the other hand, several of Ware’s criticisms are simply mistaken, while others apply just as much to traditional Arminianism. All criticisms come from a particular point of view, so it is important to state Ware’s perspective right off the bat: he is a strong Calvinist neo-evangelical in the Calvinist scholastic tradition.1 Ware’s God is one who controls every single detail of what we do, including the very words I am now writing, such that nothing ever happens which God did not specifically ordain to occur prior to creation. God’s meticulous providence encompasses even our sin and evil. God wants us to sin for some, unknown to us, good reason—it is all part of God’s great plan to redeem some and damn the majority of humans. Ware rejects as absolutely unbiblical the Arminian views of human freedom, enabling grace, conditional election, and unlimited atonement. It is important to get these points on the table, because many readers will fail to see that these beliefs are behind his criticisms of open theism.

Ware does not claim that he disagrees with open theism on every point. He says that openness and “classical theism” agree on divine aseity, self-sufficiency, and creatio ex nihilo. Futhermore, he correctly acknowledges that openness and traditional Arminianism agree on these points as well as the centrality of the love of God and libertarian freedom as essential for moral responsibility, love, and genuine personal relationships. Of course, open theism agrees with both classical and freewill (Arminian) theism on many more points than these, but it is good of Ware to bring this up, since it is often ignored.

It is common for Calvinist critics to claim that open theism rejects the “classical theism” upon which Christianity is built.2 Does openness reject classical theism? Was Christianity built upon it? Classical theism is a view of God begun by Philo of Alexandria, developed further by Augustine,

reaching its apex in the Medieval Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers Maimonides, Al-Ghazzali, and Thomas Aquinas. Hence, it is clear that Christianity was founded upon Jesus, not classical theism....

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