Before “Open Theism”

OPEN THEISM’s claim that, “…The future for God is partially indeterminate…” Is NOT an ORIGINAL thesis of “The Openness of God,” (1994).
Quite a lot of people think that Pinnock et. al., are responsible for the first instance of a Biblical DENIAL that God lives in an eternal now, and AFFIRMATION that the future for God is partially unfixed, or yet to be determined. But that is inaccurate. That was first published in 1941, over 50 years prior by Gordon Olson. Consequently, referring to Gordon as an “open theist” is getting the cart before the horse. The fact is, that Clark Pinnock, in a letter dated in 1978, credited Gordon Olson as being influential to his own thinking. A pity that he was not more forthcoming about Gordon’s influence in “The Openness of God”.

Gordon Olson, a conservative Biblical Theist, published “The Foreknowledge of God: An Inquiry as to the Truthfulness of the Doctrine THEOLOGICALLY AND SCRIPTURALLy,” in 1941, where he concluded that “the God of the Bible is not the God of Theology,” and that “…The future for God is partially indeterminate…”

Gordon Olson credits the impetus for his own Engineering Research methods to discover what the Bible taught about the doctrine of Foreknowledge (‘predestination being such a ridiculous absurdity on the face of it’) to a book published in 1882, by Lorenzo Dow McCabe entitled, “The Foreknowledge of God, And Cognate Themes.”

“My mind found great relief in the arguments of the work, and the assertion that the denial of divine foreknowledge could b e interpreted in the Scriptures.” That led Olson undertake his own research, “…prepared, mostly during summer vacations, for four years:” and the N.T. in a marathon read during a two week vacation.

What’s So Bad About Inerrancy?

What’s So Bad About Inerrancy?

Greg Boyd, in an essay written prior to the 2002 ETS meeting where Dr.’s Clark Pinnock and James Sanders were being considered for expulsion from the society for “denying” inerrancy:

“My name if Greg Boyd. I am an open theist and I proudly affirm the inerrancy of Scripture!

Like Pinnock and Sanders, I have held that ‘the future is partially open'(emphasis mine) for almost 20 years. Never once during that time- including this last year – has is ever occurred to me that my view was inconsistent with the inerrancy of Scripture. Similarly, multitudes of others prior to the modern openness movement has held to the open view while embracing the inerrancy of Scripture. Indeed, all of us have embraced the partial openness of the future ‘precisely because (emphasis his) we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.”

<<< Love that! >>>

“Yet despite our explicit affirmation, the ETS is soon going to vote on the charge that Pinnock and Sanders – and by implication (so he says) don’t really believe in inerrancy. … Though I have thoroughly studied the explicit charges raised against Pinnock and Sanders by Roger Nicole, and though I have concerned my self with all published critiques along these lines, I confessed to being ‘utterly’ mystified by this state of affairs.”

“In this paper I shall briefly consider the two main arguments that purport to demonstrate that openness and inerrancy are incompatible. I shall offer four responses to each of these arguments which demonstrate that these objections are irrelevant to the issue of inerrancy, on the one hand, and without foundation even if they were relevant, on the other.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

That, against the howl of some more youthful voices that declare for open theism saying, that “inerrancy” has nothing to do with it. Mostly those who became “open theists” after the publication of “The Openness of God” in 1994.

Two points can be made here. First, at the time of it publication, many, like Boyd believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and felt, evidently like Boyd, that the books subtitle: “A Biblical Challenge of Traditional Understandings of God” implied that the authors also believed (as Greg said they did) in the inerrancy of Scripture.

Second, it seems that Dr. Boyd’s affirmation notwithstanding, it is abundantly clear in hindsight that Dr. Pinnock had, in years prior been on more of a pilgrimage from Augustine to Arminius. He had also gone from stalwart defender of Biblical Inerrancy to a view that, even at the time of the publication of “The Openness of God, had cast off that view. (See for instance the enclosed PDF below).

Upshot I: I believe that Dr. Boyd’s intention in his 2002 essay to the ETS defending his colleagues was noble. One cannot fault loyalty to ones friends or colleagues. But in the broad light of day, the catalogue of Dr. Pinnock’s published statements tell us a different story.

Upshot II: There has been a significant amount of “re-working” of what “Biblical Challenge” means presently. And some are trying to say that it never did mean “Inerrancy”. Some even wax vitriolic in the displeasure that the concept of “inerrancy” still lingers as a relevant consideration in speaking of “Open Theism”. Some recent “openness” spin off groups make it a “value added” point that they do not believe in inerrancy of Scripture but have adopted “higher critical” views.
If you/we are going to advocate “Open Theism” then we need to be cognizant of the facts of what people say they believe about Scripture, when they said it. Furthermore, we need to realize that, like it or not, justifiably or not, we have been characterized as followers of Pinnock’s denial of the inerrancy of Scripture.

Boyd, again: “Never once during that time- including this last year – has is ever occurred to me that my view was inconsistent with the inerrancy of Scripture. Similarly, multitudes of others prior to the modern openness movement has held to the open view while embracing the inerrancy of Scripture.”

There are multitudes who are coming to the “openness” view who have the same understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture. Those who are current proponents of Open Theism need own the history of how integral affirming the inerrancy of Scripture was at its beginning how ever distant they are from that now.

Click to access OpenTheistsAndInerrancy.pdf

Open Theology In The Middle: Part I

Open Theology In The Middle: Maintaining the affirmation that future contingencies exist for God in between the twin juggernauts in the war of the “inerrancy” vs “errancy” of Scripture.   Part I


At the beginning of 2016 it seems hardly likely that anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ can fail to be aware that a growing number have been swept up into either an adherence to an extreme “inerrancy” that canonizes the English text as “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” or polarized into a post modern, biological evolutionary origin of life conformal affirmation of the “errancy” of Scripture. Both sides are driven by academics who have a vested interest in the power structures that condensed out of 19th Century reaction to German Higher Criticism’s attack on the inspiration of Scripture.

It is argued here that a common sense reader of the text of Scripture can perceive a ‘modus operandi’ in Jesus’s and the Apostle’s use of Scripture that reveals what they believed about its place for their faith and practice. There is no question the Jesus did show, and has the right to stipulate, what Scripture is. And it is further argued here that “that” view is the “High View” of Scripture.

In the temptation in the Wilderness three lines of assault were advanced against Jesus by Satan as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

1.) Seek the arbitrary and personal use of Divine power to fulfill natural appetites.

* Jesus’s response: “… It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4 KJV)

2.) To engineer circumstances to force unilateral intervention by God to save His life, even though it was to prove something as important as His being the Son of God. Besides, a “scriptural argument” is used that has merit.

*Jesus’s response: “… It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matt. 4:7 KJV) First Truths of Revelation trump all other arguments used as solicitation.

3.) Accommodate the present zeitgeist by capitulation and the way to influence and success will be assured.

* Jesus’s response: “… Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'” (Matt. 4:10 ) Again, First Truths of Revelation trump all other claims for priority.

“It is written” as containing the recorded Words of God and “Scripture” are functional equivalents in the Bible. Other passages could be cited from the Gospel that depict Jesus teaching the disciple’s before and after His resurrection where he demonstrates aspects of his call and purpose by showing them where “the Spirit spoke” of Him. In what follows is a skeleton of passages that run through the Gospels, the book of Acts, and the Epistles that demonstrate the place that Scripture inhabited in Jesus’s teaching, and that of the Apostles.

Mk. 12:10 “Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone;

Mark 15:28 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with transgressors.”

Lk. 4:21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jn. 2:22 When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Jn. 7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”

Jn. 7:42 “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”

Jn. 10:35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),

Jn. 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’

Jn. 17:12 “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Jn. 19:24 They said therefore to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Jn. 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I am thirsty.”

Jn. 19:36 For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of Him shall be broken.”

Jn. 19:37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

Jn. 20:9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

Acts 1:16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.

Acts 8:32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He does not open His mouth.

Acts 8:35 And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

Rom. 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Rom. 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”

Rom. 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Rom. 11:2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

Gal. 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.”

Gal. 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Gal. 4:30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

1 Tim. 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

1 Tim. 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

2 Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Jas. 2:8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Jas. 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.

Jas. 4:5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

1 Pet. 2:6 For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.”

2 Pet. 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

The repetition of “Scripture” as authoritative reference is so clear as a model for our practice that even children can understand. But this same kind of reverence and devotion towards “Scripture” is demonstrated all through the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.

Part II: Problems with modern “Inerrancy”

Part III: Problems with post-modern “Errancy”

Part IV: In The Middle