The Openness Of God: A Critical Assessment -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 10:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: The Openness Of God: A Critical Assessment
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

The Openness Of God: A Critical Assessment

Stephen J. Wellum

Over the last decade, careful readers of Christianity Today will have detected a major paradigm shift occurring within evangelical theology which is now leading to its potential breaking point. First it was a megashift in our language about God, sin, and salvation, that is, a shift away from the language of divine holiness, wrath, and justice to that of relationships, self-fulfillment, and love.1 Now, in recent days, it is a megashift, not only in how we talk of God, but in the very doctrine of God itself, especially in the crucial formulations of divine sovereignty, omniscience, and providence.2 At the heart of this shift is the view of “open” or “freewill theism,” promoted by a growing number of evangelicals such as Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Richard Rice, William Hasker, David Basinger, Robert Brow, and Gregory Boyd, which proposes to be a “new” understanding of God for our generation, a middle position between classical theism and process thought.3 As the proponents of this view tell us, no longer should we view God as the sovereign Lord who for his own glory works out all things according to the counsel of his will. Rather, we should view God as the self-limiting, fellow sufferer, and loving parent who relates to his creatures in such a way that he comes to know events as they take place since he does not know the future in exhaustive detail before it happens.

Without doubt, this recent debate within evangelical theology is a symptom of an incredible division within

evangelicalism-at-large. It is important to stress that this debate between open and especially classical theism is not merely the age-old debate between Calvinism and Arminianism over perennial issues of divine sovereignty, fore-knowledge, and providence, as some would have us believe.4 Rather it is a debate that goes to the very heart and soul of historic Christian theology. 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.”5 In other words, theological doctrines are much more organically related and intertwined than sometimes people realize. That is why reformulation in one area of doctrine, especially in our view of theology proper, will inevitably affect our whole theology. Clark Pinnock and open theism advocates realize the importance of thi...

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