College to Close out 'Open Theism' Scholar

By Dart, John | The Christian Century, December 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

College to Close out 'Open Theism' Scholar


Dart, John, The Christian Century


After escaping an ouster a year ago by the Evangelical Theological Society, a leading proponent of "open theism" theology is being shown the door by trustees at Huntington (Indiana) College for his "notoriety" among evangelical pastors.

John E. Sanders, who has taught religion and philosophy at Huntington for nearly seven years, was informed by President G. Blair Dowden in October that the trustees do not want the professor's contract to be renewed after the spring semester.

Sanders and noted evangelical theologian Clark Pinnock were acquitted of holding aberrant theological positions by the theological society in November 2003. But years of controversy had spotlighted Sanders, the author of The God Who Risks (1998) and coauthor with four others (including William Hasker, now a professor emeritus at Huntington College) of The Openness of God (1994).

In the latter book, Sanders wrote that humans have free will to "cooperate or work against God's will for their lives, and he enters into dynamic give-and-take relationships with us." Cod, though risk-taking, is endlessly resourceful toward his ultimate goals. Yet, Sanders and colleagues said, "God does not control everything that happens. Rather, he is open to receiving input from his creatures."

Sanders said in an interview that the college's president and academic dean in the past had been supportive of him. "Other faculty, who affirm open theism, have asked if they would be fired as well, and they were told no," Sanders said, adding that President Dowden said that Sanders's books could still be used in classrooms at the small evangelical college.

"It's only if your name gets into the churches that you risk being terminated," Sanders told the CENTURY.

Some students at the college, which has an enrollment of 975 students and will rename itself Huntington University next year, have begun selling T-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons and banners proclaiming "Save John Sanders" or "I Love Academic Freedom. …

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