God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism

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God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism. By Bruce A. Ware. Wheaton: Crossway, 2000, 240 pp., $15.99 paper.

Bruce Ware is Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. Perhaps best known as co-editor (with Tom Schreiner) of The Grace of God, The Bondage of the Will (Baker, 1995) and Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge and Grace (Baker, 2000), Ware, however, is anything but a "static" Calvinist. His 1984 Ph.D. dissertation at Fuller was "An Evangelical Reexamination of the Doctrine of the Immutability of God," which research led to "An Evangelical Reformulation of the Doctrine of the Immutability of God" (JETS 29 [1986] 431-46). Thus, Ware has himself proposed creative adjustments to the "classical" theological formulation.

This is an exceedingly important volume. To our knowledge, the only previous booklength critique of the openness of God/freewill theism perspective is McGregor Wright's No Room for Sovereignty: What's Wrong with Freewill Theism (IVP, 1996). This appeared prior to John Sanders's The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence (IVP, 1998) and Greg Boyd's God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Baker, 2000), both of which have impacted the escalating debate.

God's Lesser Glory consists of three parts. The introduction, "Why You Should Be Concerned," addresses the "so what?" question by familiarizing readers with the mounting controversy surrounding open theism and the theological "hot spots" the book examines. Part one, "What Does Open Theism Propose?" builds directly on the introduction. Ware succinctly deals with the development of open theism as a theological framework and as a departure from the classical Arminian position (chap. 2), then addresses "The Perceived Benefits of Open Theism" (chap. 3).

Part Two, "What's Wrong with Open Theism's View of God?" responds to Boyd's God of the Possible and Sanders's The God Who Risks. In Chapter 4, "Assessing Open Theism's Denial of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge," Ware critiques both the exegetical procedure of open theism and its subsequent application to key Scriptural passages often touted by open theists as support for their position. Chapter 5 outlines a "Scriptural Affirmation of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge" as Ware presents careful discussions of select passages of Scripture, against which open theists are at pains to argue effectively. Chapter 6 then addresses a minimally noticed difficulty in open theism: "The God Who Risks and the Assault on God's Wisdom."

Part Three exposes the problematic practical ramifications of open theism. Ware discusses how this position harms the Christian's prayer life (chap. 7), results in diminished confidence in God's guidance (chap. 8), and creates outright despair in the midst of suffering and pain (chap. 9). Finally, in his conclusion "God's Greater Glory and Our Everlasting Good," Ware restates the weaknesses of open theism and reasserts the orthodox view of God's sovereignty.

As to its strengths: (1) The irenic and even-handed, yet concerned, tone of Ware's treatment strikes a commendable balance. (2) The sketch in the introductory chapter of how this controversy has developed provides a historical context needed by many readers. (3) Ware's exegesis has a broader range than that of Sanders and Boyd (e.g. careful discussions of such relevant aspects as Genesis 18, Joseph, Job, Isaiah 41-48, Daniel and prophecy in general), exposing their inconsistencies in (so-called "straightforward") hermeneutics/exegesis and, in the process, securing exhaustive foreknowledge. …