Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience, Inerrancy, And Open Theism: An Evaluation -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:2 (Jun 2002)
Article: Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience, Inerrancy, And Open Theism: An Evaluation
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Divine Sovereignty-Omniscience, Inerrancy, And Open Theism:
An Evaluation

Stephen J. Wellum*

* Steve Wellum is associate professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.

When one thinks of the topics that create friction among Christians, the subject of divine sovereignty is probably high on the list. We all have experienced heated discussions over the nature of divine sovereignty, especially as it relates to the issues of divine election and salvation. Many Christian people, even seminary students, have expressed to me time and again that they wish the subject would somehow disappear. But that is hardly likely, since the subject of divine sovereignty is so foundational to one’s entire theology and praxis.

In fact, within evangelical theology today, the perennial polemics over divine sovereignty-human freedom are heating up more than ever, given the rise of the view entitled “open theism.” At the heart of the open view proposal is a reformulation of the doctrine of divine sovereignty and omniscience that has massive implications for how we think of God and his relation to the world.1 That is why, given the recent trends, it seems unlikely that discussion over the sovereignty-freedom relationship or foreknowledge-freedom tension will fade into the background. Instead, the subject, because it is so critical, must be revisited once again with a renewed sense of vigor and determination, as we seek to test our proposals, whether new or old, against the standard of God’s Word.

The goal of this paper is to do just that, but not in the typical way of evaluating this issue. Often our discussions of divine sovereignty, omniscience-human freedom merely collapse into the age-old Calvinist and Arminian debates over divine election, free will, and the nature of human depravity. No doubt these debates are important, and they must be handled with care and faithfulness to the biblical text. However, what is sometimes lost in these discussions is the fact that one’s view of God and his relation to the world has massive implications for one’s whole theology, not simply

for issues of soteriology. Theology, as J. I. Packer reminds us, is a “seamless robe, a circle within which everything links up with everything else through its common grounding in God.”2 Theological doctrines, in other words, are much more organically related than we often realize, and that is why a reformulation in one area of doctrine inevitably affects other areas of our theology. This is important to remember, esp...

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