Thorough Response to Openness Theology
The Openness of God, Part 3
In our studies
of the Openness of God theology, we have noted the challenge that
it presents to the classical doctrine of God. The classical doctrine
of God describes Him as sovereign over all His creation. In contrast,
Openness theology pictures a God who repents over many of His actions
and is willfully ignorant of what the future may bring. What is
to be our response to this new presentation of the doctrine of God?
foremost, we must be willing to study in greater depth the passages
of the Word of God where it speaks of God's repentance. What does
the word "repent" mean when it is applied to God? We must
be careful not to superimpose the human understanding of the word
on the Biblical narrative. It is easy to create God in our own understanding.
We must be sure that passages that speak of God's repentance are
we must gain greater understanding of how language functions when
it speaks of God. Theologians make the distinction between univocal
language, where the meaning is the same both for God and man,
and analogical language, where the language is accommodated
to our understanding. Is this the best way to speak of God? How
does language function in order to reveal the true God? We must
remember that God is God and we are His creatures. If God is truly
God, and is transcendent over His creation, there must be some accommodation
on God's part for us to understand Him. John Calvin says that God
"lisps" the word because of our limited abilities. It
is impossible for us to speak exhaustively of God because it would
require that we possess the same knowledge, both quantitatively
and qualitatively, as God Himself.
we must allow Scripture to be our guide, what is our view of God
Himself? Does Scripture give us an accurate view of God? Our presupposition
is that, when God communicates to us through His Word and the Holy
Spirit enlightens our understanding, the knowledge we gain is true
knowledge. It can never be exhaustive knowledge because we remain
finite creatures. Nevertheless, it is true knowledge, not that we
understand everything in the same way as God does, but true in the
sense that we can trust in it and receive it as the Word of God.
If Scriptural language is incapable of communicating the true idea
of God, from where can we gain it? In His High Priestly prayer in
John 17, the Lord Jesus equated the knowledge of God and eternal
life. If it is not possible to have the correct knowledge of God
through the instrumentality of human language, how is it possible
to possess eternal life?
two questions that must be asked about God. First, does the Word
of God tell us that He is sovereign? It would be a case of supererogation
to list all the passages in Scripture that assure us that this is
true. To take one example, at the end of his trial, Job confessed
that God was God and no purpose of His could be restrained. See
Job 42:2. Nebuchadnezzar, the heathen king of Babylon, confessed
that the Lord God ruled in the kingdoms of men. See Daniel 4:34-35.
The entire context of Isaiah 40 to 66 speaks of God's sovereign
control over His people, His plan of redemption through the Messiah,
and the establishment of a kingdom that will not cease. Isaiah did
not write as one who thought that God's knowledge of the future
was open. The opposite was true; Isaiah taught that God exhaustively
knows the future and His plan will stand.
there is also a second question that requires an answer. Does the
sovereign God remain indifferent to the needs of man? According
to the Openness theologians the answer is yes. Their explanation
is that the doctrine of God has been framed in Greek modes of thought
and does not accurately reflect what the Bible says about God. The
Scriptures speak of a God who identifies with His people, a God
who is concerned with their grief and heartache. In contrast, the
Greek concept of God is a God who is impassive, stoical, and shows
little concern about the heartache of man. However, the two cases
cited above give us the personal testimonies of two individuals
who had experienced God's sovereignty first hand. Their words were
not framed in the concepts of Greek philosophy but in the reality
of what had taken place in their own lives.
does present a God who is very much interested in the concerns of
His people. One of the most precious verses in Scripture is Isaiah
63:9, "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel
of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed
them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old."
But this view of God is not confined to the Old Testament. Note
1 Peter 5:7, "casting all your anxiety upon Him, because it
matters to Him about you." How is it possible for language
to communicate more clearly that our God cares for His people? The
entire work of redemption is a testimony of His grace for fallen
remember that we live in a fallen universe. Sin has affected every
area and every relationship under the sun. The entire world is skewed
because of sin. This includes even our ability to understand it
correctly. God accused Job's three friends of not speaking correctly
about Him in their dialogues with Job. Job's friends had a certain
view of God and, when things were not what they thought they should
have been, they placed the blame on Job and accused him of hypocrisy.
But their reactions to what had taken place in Job's life were ultimately
an accusation against God Himself. They saw Job as a sinner and
God as one who punished sin. Their view of God did not permit them
to understand that one could suffer righteously to vindicate the
character of God.
How do we
respond when we cannot find the answer to the things that we encounter
in life? What answer can we give to those who experience things
that appear to be so counter to all that we know of God? There is
deep mystery here and any facile answer reveals more of our ignorance.
this leads to the most important question of all. If we are unable
to reconcile certain aspects of God's character, i.e. His transcendence
and His immanence, does that mean that they are incapable of being
reconciled? Do we have the ability to reconcile them? Is it God's
purpose for us to have the answers to everything that takes place
in our lives? Is it necessary for us to know everything about God
for us to obey Him? Do we demand that God answer every question
that we might have about Him and how He operates His kingdom? If
this is our attitude, then we are in for a difficult time indeed.
If we are to know God exhaustively, as the Openness theologians
appear to demand, this can take place only if we do one of two things.
The first is that we raise ourselves to the level of God with exhaustive
knowledge to understand Him completely. This option is so blasphemous
that we can immediately dismiss it.
option would be to reduce God to our level, to say things about
Him that reveal the ignorance of our understanding. We demand that
God be presented in our image. He then becomes a God who, like us,
is limited in knowledge and understanding. But this is not the type
of God needed by people who face the difficulties of life.
Who is the
God offered by the Openness theologians? He is one who does not
have complete knowledge. He does not know the future. He is disappointed
with some of the things that He has done. He repents because He
has created man! Allow these words to permeate to the deepest level
of your understanding. Is He One to whom you can commit the deepest
issues of life? If He repents about the creation of man, what assurance
can we have that He will not repent the fact that He has redeemed
of God does not make life more exciting, it makes it terrifying.
What is there that enables one to keep following the Lord in the
midst of difficult trials? Is it necessary for a person to have
exhaustive knowledge of all that has taken place? No, because man
is finite and could never attain to such knowledge. We remain faithful
to God because we are convinced that God is working out His purposes
according to His understanding. Life is perplexing, things occur
for which there does not appear to be a reasonable answer. But what
is the anchor of the soul? It is the fact that God controls all
things. In His wisdom He has decreed that it is not always necessary
for me to know the reason why something has taken place. But because
I trust in His character, I know that it will result in God's glory
and my good. Is it impossible for me to remain patient under trial
and await God's timing to receive the answer? If I demand the answer
immediately, I am saying, in essence, that I am more capable of
running the universe than God Himself.
much rather serve a God who remains mysterious to my understanding
than One whom I can explain by my finite and sinful wisdom. I know
that I can trust Him to work out all things for my good. How can
I be sure of this? I can be sure because His Word reveals to me
what type of God He is. He has revealed enough of Himself and His
plan for me to obey Him. What else could I ask for? What else dare
I ask for? Does a creature of the dust have the authority to demand
of the Ruler of the Universe an account of His actions? Paul tells
us in Romans 9:20, "Who are you, O man, who answers back to
God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make
me like this, will it?'"
theologians have changed the nature of the Christian life. We are
instructed in the Scriptures that we are to walk by faith and not
by sight. The Scriptures require that we place implicit trust in
the Lord and to obey Him even if we do not completely understand
what is taking place. Listen to what Isaiah says to the person facing
the perplexing issues of life, "Who is among you that feareth
the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in
darkness, and hath no light?" This is an apt description of
many people today. Isaiah continues, "Let him trust in the
name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." See Isaiah 50:10.
of life for the Christian is the perceptive will of God. The perceptive
will is what He has revealed in His Word. The Bible also speaks
of a decretive will of God but that remains hidden in the depths
of God Himself and has not been revealed to us.
we believe the Openness theology has done a great disservice to
the Evangelical church. In an attempt to explain the perplexing
things of life, it has caused greater confusion. There are many
things that occur in the life of the child of God that defy explanation.
One Puritan has written on this perplexing subject under the title,
The Child of Light walking in the Darkness. Walking in
the darkness is not the most comfortable place in which to be.
much rather walk with a God who is sovereign and omniscient than
one whose knowledge of the future is as limited as mine. I can walk
with God because the Word of God assures me that not only is He
sovereign and omniscient but that He can be trusted implicitly.
I have no
guarantee that the reasons for what takes place will be revealed
in this life. But the life on earth is preparatory for the one to
come. When we arrive at that place, I doubt that the things that
perplexed us on earth will be a matter of great importance. If it
is necessary for us to know them, we can be assured that they will
be revealed to us in God's good time. But for our life on earth,
we walk by faith and not by sight.