The Function Of Divine Self-Limitation In Open Theism: Great Wall Or Picket Fence? -- By: Ron Highfield

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:2 (Jun 2002)
Article: The Function Of Divine Self-Limitation In Open Theism: Great Wall Or Picket Fence?
Author: Ron Highfield


The Function Of Divine Self-Limitation In Open Theism:
Great Wall Or Picket Fence?

Ron Highfield*

* Ron Highfield is associate professor of religion at Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA 90263–4352.

Evangelical theologians are dusting off their copies of the Church fathers, Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, Occam, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, and Molina. Perhaps it is not quite like fourth-century Constantinople where market places, street corners, and barbershops buzzed with discussion about the doctrine of the Trinity. But we are discussing the doctrine of God seriously and with passion—in scholarly and popular journals, in local and national, academic gatherings, and even in churches. We owe this renaissance in part to the controversial proposals of the “openness of God”1 school of thought or, as I shall refer to it, “open theism.” Open theism endeavors to revise the traditional doctrine of God to make it more biblical and of greater contemporary relevance. It fleshes out its intuitions by differentiating itself from the classical doctrine of God and process theism.2 On the one hand, open theism disputes the traditional doctrines of divine immutability, impassibility, omnipotence, omniscience, aseity, and eternity. On the other hand, it declines process theism’s invitation to follow it in rejecting the doctrines of God’s unlimited nature and creation from nothing. Open theism dissents from the traditional consensus that God controls all things, but it refuses to give up the belief that God could control all things, if he so chose.

Critics engage open theism on various fronts and do not mince words in their judgments. Open theism, they say: offers us a “diminished God,”3

teaches “fantasy” and “heresy,”4 undermines a “high view of Scripture,”5 places “God at risk,”6 misjudges “the difference between created (finite) being and uncreated (infinite) being,”7 pictures God as a “transcendence-starved deity,”8 and bids us trust a “limited God.”9 It appears, however, that critics are still struggling to mount an effective critique. Confessionalist arguments fall flat when directed at a frankly revisionist movement. Biblicists find it di...

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