Time, The “Open Acquittal,” And Divine Omniscience: Two Internal Problems With Open Theism -- By: Mark Russell Cuthbertson

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 67:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Time, The “Open Acquittal,” And Divine Omniscience: Two Internal Problems With Open Theism
Author: Mark Russell Cuthbertson

Time, The “Open Acquittal,” And Divine Omniscience:
Two Internal Problems With Open Theism

Mark Russell Cuthbertson

Mark Russell Cuthbertson is a graduate student in Theology at the University of Dallas, Dallas, Tex.

Open theism’s debut on the scene of evangelical-theological scholarship has been, in some ways, less than spectacular ... in some ways more.1 The wealth of attention it has commanded (which, for better or worse, has yet to escape its academic confines) barely exceeds the amount of criticism it has garnered. Much of this criticism has regarded philosophical paradoxes to which, it is argued, open theism must inevitably lead. Still more has been biblically exegetical in nature.

Perhaps the most notable example of widespread scholarly censure has occurred in response to one of open theism’s earliest and boldest claims, namely its value as a theodicy. In a book calculated to reach the Christian layperson, Greg Boyd asks how a God with exhaustive foreknowledge could keep his proverbial hands clean: “If I unleash a mad dog I am certain will bite you, am I not responsible for my dog’s behavior? If so, how is God not responsible for the behavior of evil people he ‘unleashes’ on the world—if, in fact, he is absolutely certain of what they will do once ‘unleashed’?”2 This and similar statements have evoked a strong response from opponents who note that, by affirming God’s knowledge of the present, the open theist must return to face Boyd’s own paradox.3 Given that even on the open view God is, say, faster than any speeding bullet or “mad dog,” he remains an idle, however able, observer of evil. The difficulty is compounded by open theists’ frequent rejection of appeals to the

“greater good,” typical of traditional theodicies, as an explanation of why God allows evil.4 Accordingly, Edward Wierenga has remarked that “the open view faces the same difficulties as traditional Christianity but with fewer resources to meet them.”5

Whether difficulties such as this have arisen due to inherent defects on the part of open theism, or are simply the byproduct of anew system struggling to formulate itself, will be discovered with time. In the meantime, the theological and philosophical communities must continue to raise questions regarding the logical (as well as practical) implications of open theism, at least as it exists today. The paradoxes an...

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