Despair Amidst Suffering and Pain: A Practical Outworking of Open Theism’s Diminished View of God -- By: Bruce A. Ware

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:2 (Summer 2000)
Article: Despair Amidst Suffering and Pain: A Practical Outworking of Open Theism’s Diminished View of God
Author: Bruce A. Ware

Despair Amidst Suffering and Pain:
A Practical Outworking of Open Theism’s
Diminished View of God

Bruce A. Ware

Bruce A. Ware is Senior Associate Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before coming to Southern, Dr. Ware served as a professor at Bethel Theological Seminary, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the writer of a number of articles and served as the co-editor of Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace (Baker). This article is a modified version of a chapter from God’s Lesser Glory (Crossway, forthcoming).

Responding to Suffering in Open Theism

When human tragedy, injustice, suffering, or pain occurs, open theists stand ready with their words of comfort and pastoral counsel: God is as grieved as you are about the difficulties and heartache you are experiencing, and he, too, wishes that things had worked out differently. Because God does not (and cannot) know, much less control, much of what the future holds, and because many things occur that are contrary to his good and loving desires, we must not blame God for the evil things that happen in our lives. Instead, we can be assured of his love for us and know that he feels the pain we feel. Also, he stands with us to provide strength to rebuild our lives out of whatever unpredictable and unforeseen tragic events that may have occurred. God is love; never doubt this. Suffering often is pointless; learn to accept this. And be consoled with the realization that God cares deeply about our pain even as he watches tragic actions and events unfold, helpless and unable to prevent the suffering he so deeply bemoans and regrets.

Two accounts from openness advocates will be sufficient to illustrate the basic lines of response offered in open theism to much of human suffering. First, Greg Boyd tells of being approached by an angry young woman after having preached a sermon on how God directs our paths.1 In brief, this woman (whom he calls “Suzanne”) was a committed single Christian with a zeal for missions. She prayed fervently for God to bring to her a missions-minded young man who shared her burden, in particular, for Taiwan. In college, she met such a man, spent rich times of prayer and fellowship together with him over three and a half years, and after a prolonged period of seeking God’s will—including a lengthy period of fasting and seeking much godly counsel—they married, fully confident that God had brought them together. Following college, and two years into their missionary training, Suzanne learned that her husband was involved in an adulterous relationship. He repented (or so it appea...

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