Note: Can I Say This at Church is produced for audio listening. If able, I strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which has inflection, emotion, sarcasm where applicable, and emphasis for points that may not come across well in written word. This transcript is generated using a combination of my ears and software, and may contain errors. Please check the episode for clarity before quoting in print.
Welcome back to the Can I Say This At Church podcast. The last few episodes have been more “heady”, more emotionally driven, more ministry driven. And I still always have that theological edge. I was privileged to be able to talk today with Greg Boyd, about Open Theism, which is a view of the future and how God has His hand in that, and is impacting that, and how our free will is involved in the choices that we make. You'll hear the arguments against, you'll hear a little bit of a pushback on…well, if this is true, then how can I know that “x” is going to happen? I think it's fantastic conversation. I'm excited for you to hear it. So here we go. Dr. Greg Boyd.
Dr. Boyd, thank you so much for joining the show today. We'd like to begin with a quick thank you again. And if you could just briefly, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Seth, thanks for having me on. It's good to be here. Okay, who is Greg Boyd? Let's see here, I'm a husband of Shelly Boyd, been married for 37…38 years.
We're going on 38 years.
Should I edit that you want me to protect you?
It’s right, that's all right. She doesn't remember either. You know, after a while, they all start all blurring together. We've got three grown kids, we got five grandkids. I pastor a church here in Maplewood, Minnesota, Woodland Hills Church, and I am President of ReKnew ministries, you find us at reknewed.org. We have a podcast and writings and stuff like that?
Fantastic. Yeah, I've enjoyed that website immensely over the last few years. So just a little bit of background. So you know where I'm coming from, for these questions. So I grew up extremely fundamental, evangelical, I would call it “church politics”, and I'm no longer that. And so that's kind of the upbringing of this.
If someone just Google's open theism right now, just to hit pause and Google it, your name quickly comes to the top few results, as I was hoping maybe you could just tell us a little bit about open theism. What do you tell people when they say, “hey, what is open theism?
Well, the theism is just the belief that things really do depend on our decisions, your prayer really does make a difference. The things that you decide determine outcomes of things. Going through life here, and it's not a pro-forma activity, we're not going through the motions. Things really hang in the balance, and what we do, for better or for worse.
Now, a little more philosophical way of putting it is that open theism is just the belief that possibilities are real, possibilities are real, because God created agents, humans and angels with free will we have the possibility of going this way, or the possibility of going that way. And since that's what's real, that's what God knows is real, because God knows all reality perfectly, exactly as it is. And so it means that there's no eternal fact about what I will do. There are only facts about what I may or may not do, as the final “Real Thing”, possibilities are real. If it was a fact that I'm going to buy it by a green Toyota in 2021, if that was an eternal fact, then it's not possible for me to not buy a green Toyota in 2021. So possibilities aren't real. If all facts of the future are settled, then there are no other possibilities, not real possibilities.
What we call possibilities is simply our ignorance about the facts. But the open view holds that the possibilities really are real. It's not just a result of our ignorance about what's going to happen. Rather, the final thing to say about the future, at least to some degree, is that it might be this or might be that “Greg might buy the green Toyota, or Greg might not buy the green Toyota in 2021. So that's what God knows.
He knows that you might do either.
Right. Okay so that's the final, God knows all the facts. And that's the final fact, right now, the final fact is that it’s within my power to go this way or that way, and so that's what God knows this is real.
So to contrast that versus what I was taught growing up, which would be more of a, I guess, traditional or fundamental or Calvinist view of things. So that seems to fly in the face of, well, I guess, conventional thought from what you'll hear in many pulpits.
sure. Faith, both of classical Calvinism, which holds that, that all facts of history are, are eternally fixed, because God predestined them. But our Arminianism also holds that all of the future facts are fixed or settled but God didn't got and choose that—they just are. God just knows them.
But God isn't the one that settled those facts being the way they are. Which leads to the question, well, then what did settle the facts? If it’s a settled fact from all eternity, that Greg Boyd will buy a green Toyota in 2021. What settled that? Because I'm not eternal. I didn't choose that eternally. So it creates this kind of weird thing that the facts are out there, but nothing made those facts to be the way they are, and they just are from all eternity.
It's kind of a form a Greek fatalism, because the Greeks also held that all facts are sort of eternal. But it wasn't that any God chose those or anything. It's just fate. It just, it's they just are the way they are from all eternity, and it could not be otherwise. Well, that's…that's fatalism.
Well, there's no choice in that I do have a random question. Is your lease up in 2021? You're planning on buying a car and a green Toyota?
(Laughter) No I’m not buying a new car and not a green Toyota.
Fair enough. Have you always been of this viewpoint that you are now, open theist?
Yeah, I went through the gamut of all different, you know, possibilities. Over the course of the years. I was just…,this church I was saved in when I was 16, was this classical Armenian. But then I evolved into sort of the, what's called the middle knowledge of the Molinist position, although I didn't know was that at the time but I thought it was a new idea of mine. Turns out, I read it in Origen. I, for a period of time, I was a Calvinist for a couple of years in seminary. That despite myself, I mean, I was a Calvinist for exegetical reasons. I couldn't, you know, come for Romans nine any other way. But I never assumed people liked it. Like, I believe that, but I couldn't. I couldn't see the glory in it. Like, you know, you hang around Calvinist and they're always like, oh, Gods all together good, all together, beautiful. Your gains everything for themselves brings good pleasure is beautiful. And I could never see the beauty in this, you know, I thought it'd be more beautiful, beautiful. If God didn't predestined the majority of human beings go to hell. But I eventually evolved out of that into the open view. This probably 1986, I think, was when I was really making the term. And I felt this way ever since.
I assume open theology, what the problem is, I can't find a lot of genealogy of it. So what is the history of this view of God? I mean, there's, there's so much literature on the other two?
Yeah, actually, that's the book that is waiting to be written. I have in my file here, a friend of mine down in Florida, has been collecting for 30 years, all this data and open theist in church history, and has Xerox’d me on all of them. And I've got piles sitting over there. But that's not the kind of book I'm interested in writing, but someone needs to write that. But he is traced that the earliest open theist I know of is the guy named Calcidius in the Fourth Century. And he was mainly a Christian commentator on Plato. In fact, his commentaries were very popular throughout the Middle Ages. And it's interesting because he advocates this, but he doesn't call it open theism or open future, but it's clear that's what is. His view is he holds the conditional prophecies is that all prophecies are conditional. They're not what will happen. But what will happen if things don't change, and that things can go this way or that way. And, but he uses commentaries, but no one ever objected to his view of the future, it's quite interesting. And then there was something in the 16th and 17th century, we find various groups from start to advocate this view, was pretty popular mind the early Wesleyans, and they debated it, and then it kind of it ebbs and flows. You know, what's interesting about the past, however, is that they debated these things, but no one ever throughout the heresy charges, that's like a modern thing to say, oh, you're a heretic for believing this, you because you think possibilities are real burn him at the sake.
But you find it being debated. And then in the 20th century, YWAM was one of the ones that really got it on the map, they started in the 50s. And their theology held to this kind of open view of the future. And then the modern openness movement, usually identified with the book, The Openness of God in 1994, Clark Pannock and John Sanders, those guys wrote that book, which all just go on record saying, I wish they hadn't grabbed the title, open theism. I do not like that title at all because it makes it seem as though the distinctive thing about this theology is its view of God.
That God is open. Any Armenian, would say that you know, that God's open to our influence and stuff like that. What's distinctive about this view is not about God, it's about the nature of the future. It should have been called “the open view of the future”, which sounds less sexy than open theism but it's more accurate, because it's really about it's a it's a position of what is the context of reality? Is it all settled facts? Or are possibilities real? And it has a view of the future that to some degree, the future is comprised not of subtle facts, but a possibility?
So this will be the old Calvinist coming out of me. So how, so you know, you get the five points, and one of them and I'm going to say it wrong, it's been too long. This is God's in ultimate control. He knows everything. He's all powerful. You can't do anything to change anything. So in that traditional, Western American church view,
So the problem is, it to me that seems not like a very powerful God all powerful, and that he said all the dominoes up, but then he can't put anything to stop any dominoes from changing shape or form…
He could if he wanted to. But that would imply that He had to change your mind, and in this view of God never changes in any respect whatsoever. There's, there's never, he has never has a new thought or anything. God is just eternally the same. But I agree with you, I, you know, here's what I never got you. And I believe that I couldn't see what was glorious about this God. Yeah, God could create a world in which every molecule is predetermined, okay, he can do that. But what would be glorious about that, of course, he could do that he's got the power to do that. But there's, there's nothing virtuous about exercising power that is innately yours. I mean, I can wiggle at my little finger, because it's my finger, but you're not going to praise me for it. God's praiseworthy, creative creation, where he's not pulling all the strings. And now he uses wisdom, to, you know, keep the world running and to keep on track and to go after his goals. It doesn't take any wisdom for me to wiggle my little finger. And I went to any wisdom for God to create a world where everything is predestined.
But the Bible exalts God's wisdom and providence, at least as much as it does is power. And you only need wisdom, if you have to problem solve, and you only have to problem solve it, there are agents who have their own will and their own thinking, and you've kind of got to work around them. And that I think, is a much more virtuous conception of God.
The other thing is the idea that God's power is about his ability to control everything. And that's what makes God sovereign. Well, that's that that is as pagan a notion as anything, go go back in history religions, and you'll find that that's always the kind of power that humans have been inclined to project onto the gods, because that's power, we create the Power To Win to be our enemies, you know, to protect ourselves. And so we projected onto the gods and the whole history, religion confirms that. So this is just another, you know, this is sort of a pagan god on steroids. It's got the same old pagan power, just a mega dose of it.
The other things, though, is that the New Testament teaches us, and this is one of the most radical, beautiful teachings of the entire New Testament, that the cross is foolishness and weakness to the world, but to us, it is the wisdom and the power of God. Paul redefines the omnipotent of God by pointing us to Calvary, when God shows off his power, he gets crucified. That's the kind of power that God relies on to to defeat evil and to run the world. And that's the opposite of course of power. That's the power of self sacrificial love. And, and I want always, you know, that that's the divinely inspired is because no human being would ever make that up. That's, that's the opposite of human beings have always said about the gods. This God is so wise and so powerful. He becomes a human being and gets crucified for a bunch of sinners, the very ones who crucify him, that is uncommon-sensical, and mysterious and beautiful. And that's one of the ways you know, it's true.
Yeah, I mean, that's the gospel. So you spoke earlier that in the past, when people would come to this view, that the heretical, the big H, on your forehead stamped on there wasn't so quickly thrown out, or maybe not thrown it at all. So why, and this has been accused of view, I've read passages back and forth in snippets of emails that are posted online, where you've had that same problem of being branded and escorted off the premises, for lack of better words.
Well they tried, they tried to get me removed from Bethel, and that didn't work. And they tried to get to get me kicked out of the ETS, the Evangelical Theological Society, but I wasn't a member. So that didn't work very well. But yeah, they tried different avenues to try to cut them off. But they haven't been successful, but the H word has been thrown around.
So I guess my question is, what is there to lose by entertaining the thought, of an open view?
Well, I, you know, from the perspective of mainly it’s the Calvinists who've been the ones who have been, you know, are arguing this, they see it as an assault on the glory of God, because they defined the glory of God by control. And, you know, RC Sproul in his book, Not a Chance, he argues that there's one molecule that's not controlled by God, then God is not God. His definition of God is all controlling, if God was not control, you wouldn't be God. So to advocate open theism would be equivalent to atheism, you know, they, so they just see it as diminishing God's glory. And, yeah, so they branded and throw it, but throwing the word heretic about…what you're doing there is you're, it's a way of, it's just a censorship move. And it's a way of trying to discourage people from taking it seriously.
And the more plausible the view is, the louder they have to scream, because they caricature it, and they don't want it to get a fair hearing, because they're afraid that people actually, you know, look at it sympathetically and they may believe it. And in their view, that'd be a total loss. So they throw out the charge to protect the flock.
Well, in my case, I had two options, I could deconstruct and put together everything and what I see and read the Bible and the gospel to be or I could just walk away. And I think many in my generation walk away. So in the open view, one of the critiques that I've read is that it takes my free agency, my free will, and it makes that usurp the sovereignty of God. Can you speak to that a bit? Because I don't understand how that could be. But also something logically makes sense about that statement?
Yeah. Notice that they are defining sovereignty as control there. There's that, you know, you're undermining sovereignty of God with your free will! Because sovereignty for them means control. But I would argue why go with that definition of sovereignty? Is that the most praiseworthy form of sovereignty that you can imagine?
I can imagine, when it's a little more praiseworthy, namely, one that’s not all controlling. When it comes to people, we don't respect people who try to micro control others. People might micro control others when they don't trust their character and their intelligence to get the job done working with other people. And I think the same is true God, why would it also be praiseworthy for God be doing something that we otherwise never, you know, find as being praiseworthy?
The other thing I'd say is this, CS Lewis said that in Mere Christianity, at one point he goes,
some people think that it is a denial of God's omnipotence if you were to create agents who had the power to say no to him, but I see it as the greatest act of omnipotence. The greatest act of omnipotence is that God would create creatures who have the capacity to say no to him.
And he created us with that capacity, because unless we have the capacity to say no to him, we can't say yes to Him in any way that's meaningful. And so we have this thing called free will. I think CS Lewis is right. I think it's it's the greatest act of God. Would Calvinists argue that God couldn't create such a being if you wanted to? And then you have to ask question, why wouldn't you want to? Is he threatened by us? What was going on here?
Yeah, I heard it was on a different different show somewhere but I heard Brian Zahnd on the other day, talking about Calvinism, saying it is one of the the most…a very good system, but it backs you into a corner that that is not very Jesus based, so very, very grace, based.
Well it is a good system if you mean by that just kind of logical rigidity.
that's what I mean
Yeah, yeah. The TULIP follows, you know, but the best, the best logical reasoning in the world isn't gonna be any good if your starting point is off, you know? I think their starting point is dead wrong.
So to take it to an eternal viewpoint. So if I can make my own choices now, what are my restrictions for the afterlife? What are my restrictions for I guess, in salvation, can I still choose to then?
Yeah, can we fall from heaven, kind of thing? Well, here's how I think about this Seth l, is that there's an ancient Maxim that it actually predates Christianity goes back to at least 500 BC, to Hericlitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, but he's picked up in the church tradition. And I think it's self evidently true. And this Maxim is this, that we begin by making our choices, but in the end, our choices make us or to phrase it a different way. Our choices, if we continue in them become habits and our habits, if we continue them become our character, and our character, if we continue in, it becomes our destiny. We get solidified in the decisions that we make. And the more you make any decision, the more likely it is that you'll continue to make that decision. And some ways our will is like watering down the side of a mountain, it creates grooves, and the deeper those grooves go, the more likely it is that the water will flow in those grooves rather than anywhere else.
So we get solidified in our in our in our character. And the ultimate endgame of this, I think, Seth, is that we have these choices to go this way or that way. But ultimately end up either with an even greater kind of freedom and the freedom of choice, or we end up in the greatest kind of bondage. That's to say this, that the goal, is for me to make loving choices now to become, to become habitually loving, to acquire a loving character to become a loving person. And when I get to where I am no longer just a person who chooses to love, but I am a loving person. Now I'm truly free. Because I still choose to love but I don't really even have the possibility of choosing otherwise, I don't struggle with that.
So I think for example, the husband who has consistently or that could be the wife, who's consistently chosen faithfulness over infidelity. And that maybe was difficult early on, when they were going through marriage problems, whatever. But by making those choices, they formed their character, to the point where at some point God would see even if these people didn't know God was see that their character is such that they would no longer be tempted to cheat on their spouse than they would be tempted to skin a cat, you know, it's just it doesn't have the allure. And that husband, or that spouse I think is more free than the one who has to struggle with the choice. That the first spouse has free will but the second spouse has a higher kind of freedom, which is the freedom to love out of your character.
And that's where we become godly. That's how God is like that God's character is inherently loving. And the goal of life, I think, is to become that. And so there's a final state where either we love, without the capacity of not loving, or we don't love, and we have no capacity for loving. You can get to the point where you no longer God would still save you if you turned to him. But there's nothing in you that is inclined in that direction. You've lost the capacity to even want to go
On your site, renew.org. You wrote an article, and I don't remember when, but it's about the difference between process theology versus open theism. I'd never heard of, quote unquote, process deal.
Right, right, the only thing they have in common is we both hold to a possibilities are real to the future that's partly open. The way that we get there is totally different. I mean, in process theology, you've got a God who is intrinsically limited, and who is eternally connected to a world God didn't create the world, ex nihlo, from nothing. God has always been God. And it's always been a world, the relationship between God and the world is the relation between your your brain and your body. Okay? That's the analogy that they sometimes use. And so and God is constrained by this by metaphysical principles, since he didn't create everything. Everything's this has always been the you know, as it is, it was given this God in the world, for eternity, so God's bound by certain metaphysical principles and metaphysical rules. Which I argue in my doctoral dissertation, it's called Trinity and Process, I argue that that the metaphysical constraints of process theology leads to some very unorthodox conclusions. Like God not being able to have special intervention the world, I don't see how the Incarnation is possible, you don’t have a triune God you have a by bipolar God.
And so the metaphysical system of process theology includes the view that the future is open. And so to that degree, it shares this open view of the future, but open theists who hold to the future do it for some philosophic ethical reasons, but mainly for Biblical reasons; but without any of that metaphysical baggage. And so I, sometimes, bristle when people try to compare the process thought with open theism, oh, you're just a stepping stone to process that. It's like that is so much nonsense. It's two very, very different things
I researched a few because I wanted to be transparent and ask questions that others would ask, so for some of the criticisms. So I've read other people say or read other people, asserting that Scripture does not hint that there could be anything that's unknown to Him. That everything is in and that this view is, And I wrote it down. Herman Bavinck said that
the the true manner to which he obtains knowledge is sometimes stated in striking anthropomorphic language, but he nevertheless knows everything. And the notion that something should be unknown to him is dismissed as absurd.
I totally agree. It's absurd! But what that objection tells me is that the person doesn't know much about open theism. No open theist who is informed would ever say that there's things God doesn't know. We hold to the Gods omniscience, God knows everything. God's knowledge and reality are are coterminous categories. They're identical. Okay, so. So to this objector, I just say, I totally agree, it's absurd to think that God would know something.
You see this person is assuming that future facts are out there. He's assuming a particular view, the southern view of the future, and critiquing open theism. And that assumption, so he's assuming that all the facts about you know, Greg buying a green Toyota in 2021, and everything else there, they are eternally out there. And so if I deny that God knows if I'm going to buy a green Toyota in 2021, this person thinks that I'm saying God doesn't know something. But in fact, I'm not saying that. I'm saying there's nothing out there. Got to know other than those possibilities, I might do this, or I might do that. And so you can't…that'd be like, you wouldn't you wouldn't suppose this objector here. I think it's the name, but
Herman Bavinck, he wrote a book 2004. But about a decade ago, it was mostly about a rebuttal to open theism. But I have not read the book to be fair.
Well, yeah. Herman, it'd be like if we're in a room and, you know, room full of chairs, and I say, I think God knows that there's 43 chairs in this room?
And he says, No, I think God knows that there's 53 chairs in this room? Well, it'd be weird for him to say, you denying that God knows 10 chairs, you're limiting God by saying he only knows those 43? Well, look we disagree on what God knows, because we disagree about what's in the room. But we all agree that however many chairs are in the room, God knows it. Tou can't say that. My God knows less, because he has less chairs. So also, in the future, maybe comprise all of exhaustive facts if Herman's right, and in which case God would know that, but the future also made be part of the component comprised of possibilities, in which case God would know that, and it'd be just as dumb for me to criticize him. Because his guy doesn't know possibilities, as it is for him to criticize me because my God doesn't know the facts that he thinks are out there.
How should we read the Bible? Because Another criticism I've seen is that
Left to right, (laughter both), left to right, unless your reading Hebrew, and then you go right to left, and right.
And in Greek, you go from bottom to top. I don't know if that's true, but it sounds good.
Um, so the claim is, in the Old Testament, specifically, there's so many times that God himself says that God wants this thing to happen, and what I want to happen will happen, and they usually quote a large section of Isaiah from I think, 40-48, or 44, somewhere in that vicinity. And so how then, are we supposed to interpret prophecy, or future events through the lens of the Bible? If, obviously, I don't know all the possibilities.
Yeah, so in Isaiah, you have this, it's often called Second Isaiah, but this refrain, where Yahweh is going to demonstrate that he's the true God, not these idols. And but as you read it carefully, he always says, I will tell you ahead of time what I'm going to do, and then he tells them what he's going to do. Well, obviously, if God's resolved to do some things, he knows it, and so he can declare this I'm going to do. He's not declaring random facts out there he is declaring his intentions.
And when prophecies are of that nature, then they are about the future. But most prophecies are not of that nature. Most prophecies in the Bible are warning about what's going to happen if things don't change. So in Jeremiah 18, for example, it's really interesting because here Jeremiah uses, or the Lord uses, this Potter / Clay analogy, which Paul picks up in Romans 9.
Now look how different it is the way that Jeremiah uses this. The Lord takes Jeremiah to the potter's house. Well, first, the Lord declared disaster is coming upon Israel because of it, since he's gonna allow Babylon to attack it. And the Israelites were saying, we're done, we're gone. It's no use. And so the Lord says, Don't say that.
And so it takes Jeremiah to this potter's house, the potter is fashioning this kind of vessel, but the clay is not cooperating. And so he improvises and forms a different kind of vessel that conforms to the kind of clay he's working with. And then the Lord says, starting with verse 5, you go and tell the people of Israel, that I am the Potter and they are clay, I have the right to do whatever I want you. So I may declare that I'm bringing judgment on you, thats the kind of vessel and fashioning. But if you will change that I'll change it uses this phrase, if you'll change your mind, then I'll change my mind. And I'll fashion blessings for you rather than judgment. But if at any time and He uses that phrase, twice, if it anytime I declare that there's a book, I'm going to bless a nation, that nation turns wicked, that I'll change my mind, and I'll bring a judgment rather than a blessing. Because I'm the Potter and the clay, so I can change my mind if I want to.
And so the whole point of the potter / clay analogy is, it’s what Paul is getting at Romans 9 as well. He's not saying God's unilaterally controlling, this clay you know, making good or bad vessels as He wants. He's saying that God is wisely responding to the clay. And that's the way Hebrew prophecy works.
God says, this is what's going to happen. But it almost always means not “this is what's certainly going to happen. But this is what's going to happen if you don't change”, and he gives it as a warning.
And see, this is how Hebrew prophecy was so different from Greek prophecy. The Greeks were into divination, into the occult, into trying to divine the future, they rip apart animals and take out entrails to try to see what the future holds. And they had all these different ways of trying to divine that, because they were fatalist, and they thought that the future was set in stone, and that the gods were there for know the future.
And so prophecy was about predicting what is going to happen? Well, the Hebrews had a very different view, they weren't fatalistic at all. The purpose of prophecy was to appeal to people's free will so they would change. And and it wouldn't have to go down that way.
We have a lot of people today, in fact, most Christians, they, at least conservative Christians tend to have a Greek view of prophecy rather than a Hebrew view of prophecy. They think that when the Bible says what's going to happen, they're thinking about Nostradamus, or in some, some diviner, and so they read that occult sort of definition into the Bible. And to think that all these things are predictions that have to come true.
Yeah, well, I mean, that came in the news recently with Trump and naming the capital of, Jerusalem or Israel, and everyone was like, Yes, this is, this is happening, y'all. Were coming, we are fulfilling the prophecy!
Yeah, they get into all that stuff. And we just had four blood moons. And what does this mean? Ahhh!!!
It's a tremendous waste of time.
Yeah, but, and you'll hear it on Sundays though you'll hear too many churches of you know, it's what what would you say that the platitudes the things that don't help people, when you're, you know, when someone passes away, or when someone commits suicide or whatever, that I'm sorry. What has been being that you've held differing views throughout your career in your life and your and your growth with Christ? What is the the biggest drawback or the biggest burr for open theism that you have, that you maybe still struggle with; or that the took the longest to get over.
The biggest burr with open theism?
See, you know, Seth, it's hard to me to address that I, there's, I wouldn't hold this view, if I didn't, you know, if I thought it had some remaining objections that that were insurmountable. So I just don't…I have trouble answering that. It's biggest drawback, I can't.
That’s fair, that's fine. That's a fine answer, I asked the same…
I guess, that I've had several people who have given me scenarios where like, they had a dream about something long before it happened. And then it came to pass, or something like that. And so there's, they report things that are really hard to make sense out of, if you hold up the futures part of the open. And what I do in those cases is, is, you know, I can assume that their dream, or that the word that was given them was accurate. And then try and weave that into how that would fit into an open view. Because God can, you know, influence things in a lot of ways that we never see. And a lot of things are subtle that don't seem subtle to us. Or there's I think, in some cases, other explanations where people have selective remembrance about what they dream and they retrofit a dream into what it comes to pass. You know, there's all sorts of phenomena like that.
But yeah, I guess those are the, the more challenging questions.
So springboard off that…in counseling people, you know, a marital counseling, or someone has died of cancer, or basically the problem of evil, how an open view doesn't seem very satisfying. It doesn't seem like it would give me closure. If say, my wife was hit with a bus on the way home from work today. And I'm like, What the heck?
What would the classical view give you that you don't think the open view can give you?
Well, at least something to blame?
Say your wife gets killed by a drunk driver, tonight, God forbid. But let's just you know, say that. If God forknew that from eternity? How is that an advantage over my view that God just knew it was a possibility?
Well, I don't think that it is an advantage. But my question is, what would you say to someone that comes in? They're broken down their stripped, they're questioning God, why do you let you know babies die of whatever? Why did you let my wife get whatever? And so I guess, what do you say to someone because they're so emotional, they're ripped raw, everything's on the table. And they're most likely on a razor's edge of I'm just going to throw the whole thing out baby, bath water, burn the house down or something.
Here, here's why I think the open view has a great advantage is that I can tell them this.
God is not to blame for this, this is not part of God's great plan for your life. You know, His wonderful program, I'm not going to tell you that, you know, this all happens for a reason. You know, God's timing is right on time. God’s providence, writes straight with crooked lines, and all that other junk.
This is a tragedy and that's all there's to be said about that. Now, having said that, it's not all there is be said about it. Because I can also say this, that God promises that he's working in all things, working all these together for the better for those who love the Lord and called according to His purpose. That God has a plan in place that he's been preparing from the beginning of the world, as to how we can bring good out of this incident. And our job is to cooperate with him and doing that. Your wife's death isn't just a meaningless, gratuitous instance of evil. God can bring meaning out of it. But here's the difference. It's like, so that is what a traditional person would usually say. And they think that the open theist can't say that.
“What do you mean? How can God have an eternal plan, if all he knows is the possibilities”, and this gets to the real rub of things Seth.
Okay. So follow this.
People think that God is less prepared for the future, if he has to face possibilities than he is, if he knows just the one line of certainty that's going to happen. They think that gives them advantage. But they think that only because they are pre-supposing that God has limited intelligence. If we have to anticipate possibilities, we're less effective at anticipating possibilities than we are at certainty. Because we have to spread our intelligence thin, we have a finite amount of it, and we have to spread thin to cover all the possibilities. So we're less prepared for any one of 10 possible outcomes, then we would be for just one outcome, because we have less anticipatory power.
But if God is infinitely intelligent, and I'm assuming we both agree that he is, then you can divide up infinity. And so God doesn't have to spread his intelligence thin to cover any number of possibilities. Rather, God can cover each and every one of a trillion, trillion, trillion to the trillionth power possibilities and treat each and every one of those as though they were the only possibility.
All of his attention is on this possibility as though it had to happen. So in other words, God anticipates every possible future, as though it were the only future he had to anticipate. So he has a plan in place to bring good out of evil, that is just as effective as in the traditional view. It's just that—and so whatever happens, I can say, you know, God was preparing a plan for this from the foundation of the world, in case it happens, it's just that I think God is so smart, any number of other things could have happened and if they would have happened, I'd be saying the exact same thing. So it to put it in a nutshell,
I can see stuff dripping from your ear right now, Seth
To put it in a nutshell, only a God of finite intelligence would gain any advantage by virtue of knowing or having a crystal ball as to how things are going to happen. It's like if you're playing God, and chess, you know, God anticipates every possible move. And so every move you make is going to play into his hand, because he's been setting you up for that.
Tou know, every possible move that you can make, and is anticipating it. Know if Gabriel, the angel Gabriel, came up to God and said, “Hey, God, you know, we have this crystal ball, we can see in the future, every move Seth is going to make”, God would say, “Why do you insult me with this thing? You think the crystal ball gives me any advantage? No, I see every possible move Seth is going to make through that crystal ball”.
I'm anticipating it from the beginning of the game as though it had to happen. It's just I'm so smart, I can anticipate it as though it had to happen, even though it didn't have to happen. Any other any other thing could have happened, and I'd be saying the exact same thing about that. So the open view, you don't lose anything, all you do is gain a coherent system that allows you not to blame God.
That agency would work the other way… I guess this, I don't have this question written down. So bear with me if I have to rephrase it.
So when when history or civilization or it doesn't matter what planet, what life, is on, if something is going off the rails, then God would go, No, we're changing this, this chess piece no longer belongs here, it belongs “here”, now continue the game. And that would be like that would be like the Incarnation or something similar to that, or am I off base there.
That presupposes that, you know, when God set up the chessboard, they God didn't anticipate that that possibility. The parameters of freewill are I think, built into the nature of creation. When God creates the world, he gives a certain amount of say so to free agents, to humans and to angels, and we have say over what comes to pass to this degree, but there's always parameters there. I may have this amount of a free will to affect the world for good, which is also my ability to affect the world for evil. But I don't think I could blow up the world you know, ahead of time.
There's gonna be parameters on it and there's all sorts of conditions and stuff. And so I don't think God has to be you know, kind of intervening to sort of keep the system running well, I think God gets involved every nanosecond, influencing everything. He's always influencing, he's never a passive God he's always active in the world, but not to tweak the system but rather to influence as much good as possible and minimize evil as much as possible to achieve his his his good ends.
This is…this makes my brain break a little bit. It's just different from what I'm used to. I want to switch gears and just ask you one final question that I’ve I begun asking of everyone. With the world that the church culture, the vehement disregard for whatever tribe is not yours, what would be, as a pastor, as a leader in the faith, what would be one thing that those listening could take home and begin to install or something that they should look to, to make the Kingdom of God better; or the world we live in better, or the family we were the leader of better?
Yeah, well, ultimately, our calling is just to be putting on display the character of God to all people at all times. And that's the best thing we can do for the world. Offer a different kingdom, different way of being. I guess the word I would say right now is, you know, we've had four different times in the New Testament, we're commanded to greet strangers to welcome in strangers.
Jesus, even in Matthew 25 says that you know, when you welcomed in, when you visit the prisoner, clothe the naked and fed the hungry and and give housing to the homeless, you're doing it to me. And that's the criteria of the judgment. We're called to have a love for strangers, philioxenia is the Greek word Helios. It means love. And then also means other. What we what we have going on right now in our culture is a diabolical form of xenophobia, which is fear of each other. And perfect love casts out fear. And when there's fear, there's not perfect.
So to manifest the kingdom, we should be doing the opposite of what's going on in our culture, going out of our way to welcome strangers. You know, Jesus said in Matthew 5, that if you only greet those are greet you what reward is there in that?
It's when we love those that we wouldn't ordinarily love, and even love our enemies, life threatening enemies, in fact, Jesus makes that the criteria for being considered a child of God, love your enemies, bless those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven, Matthew 5:45.
And so I would encourage people to be just outrageously loving, and generous, and hospitable. That's the word hospitable, where you're welcoming people that are outside your normal sphere, your comfort zone, get out of your comfort zone, get to meet some people that don't look like you, have different skin color, talk with a different accent, name a different language, different kind of food, listen to a different kind of music and learn from them. And, and show Christ’s love to them. That's what the world needs right now.
Amen. Amen. So for those that want to further engage in, in the topic of open theism, but outside of that, just engage in other theological discussions, where can they interact with you? I know you've got renewed.org, you referenced a podcast earlier?
Yeah. You follow me on Twitter, and you can, you know, go to renew.org. There's, on reknew.org, I have this thing called Greg’s library, and I there list, I have about 3000 books that I've listed under different categories for recommended reading, you know, for in this topic, here's the 10 books I'd recommend, and I give a little, I rank them according to their level of difficulty. And so yeah, people find that in doing research papers, I do a lot of people's homework for them.
Yeah, no, I, I'm gonna abuse that. Because that will greatly help me as well. Um, well, fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on. And I've had a blast. I can’t thank you enough.
It is my pleasure, Seth. Thanks for having me on and talk to you again sometime.
Oh, man, what do we do with that? People? possibilities are endless. I don't know about you. But open theism is something that I've wrestled with. I recorded that in January of 2018. with Greg and I've wrestled with it almost every day since then be I can't begin to fathom the God that we worship, knowing that I am not forced into any decision. And regardless of whether or not I make a good one or a bad one, the God of the universe sits with us and sits with me and with you.
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