Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

There Is Room for Us: A Reply to Bruce Ware

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

There Is Room for Us: A Reply to Bruce Ware

Article excerpt

An encouraging feature in evangelicalism today is the fact that people are seeking a more intimate relationship with God. They want a more than dry intellectual connection with a far away and seemingly immobile deity and are longing for soul-satisfying interactions with the living God. I think that the present discussion about the openness of God may have something to do with spiritual as well as dogmatic or philosophical issues. There is today a widespread spiritual hunger for reciprocal and interactive relationships with the Father and an understanding of God which underlies and sustains it.1

I appreciate Bruce Ware's willingness to engage open theists in dialogue and admire his own work in which he criticizes some of the assumptions underlying classical theism. When he argues that God is not unchangeable in every respect but changeable in some respects, he too is engaged in theological revision.2 Nor is he alone among the evangelical theologians in reconsidering certain matters. John Feinberg admits in language reminiscent of open theists that he too seeks a middle way between classical and process views of God.3 Millard Erickson also recognizes a degree of Hellenistic corruption in classical theism and along with Grudem puts aside the ancient consensus on divine impassibility.4 And what about Ron Nash and Bill Craig who question divine a-temporality? Practically all evangelicals who work on the doctrine of God today (except maybe Geisler) are suggesting revisions to classical theism just as open theists are. A good discussion is taking place, and we share a common cause. If this fact were more widely known, it could not but normalize the discussion and counter the impression that only open theists are putting forth any new ideas. Critics are too modest when it comes to acknowledging their own novelties and are therefore more vehement against us than they have any right to be.

Ware's decision to focus on one particular point of the open model, the so-called "present knowledge" of God, is legitimate in my books. After all, it is a novel aspect of our view which attracts attention. We are not ashamed of it, and it is an important point. Therefore it is right and proper to enquire into its implications and ask whether it constitutes a boundary of contemporary evangelical thought. The evangelical movement does embrace an astonishing variety of opinion, and we often ask such questions: are "new" theologies such as dispensationalism and Pentecostalism or "new" opinions such as the ordination of women and re-interpretation of the sacraments legitimate options? So long as there is fresh thinking (may it never cease), there will be questions to ask. Regarding divine foreknowledge, no doubt Ware has his reasons for zeroing in on it. He sees how it arises from an Arminian way of thinking and how it goes beyond it. He also laments the dreadful implications which he thinks it implies, while on my part I am impressed with its scriptural foundations and theological coherence. Ware sees it as our Achilles heel, while I view it as the logical next step in Arminian thinking, which has always been part of evangelicalism.

While focusing on the issue of divine foreknowledge, let us not lose sight of the fact that our view of this subject is only one facet (and not the most important) in a larger relational model of the divine-human relationship. According to this paradigm God gives significant freedom to creatures. God is love, and it was for a love that would be freely chosen that God created the world. Therefore, God sovereignty decided in creating the world not to control everything, but to leave room for finite persons to exist and to contribute to the unfolding of history. This meant creating the kind of world in which things might or might not be, a world whose future would be somewhat open in order to make such a relationship possible. What divine omniscience means in this context is that God knows everything about the future-both what is already settled and what is not yet settled, both what is certain and (what at this point) is only possible and yet to be decided. …

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