A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Daniel Scheiderer
This book is a response to the rising adoption of the theology of open theism. It should be read alongside Frame’s The Doctrine of God, as well as Bruce Ware’s treatment of open theism in God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism. To address the issues, Frame first defines the doctrine and sets it in its historical context. Next, he provides the hermeneutical and theological presuppositions that guide open theists’ formulation of their doctrine, including the place of logic and a controlling theological attribute.
Frame continues forward by looking at the doctrines of God’s will, human freedom, divine atemporality, immutability, impassibility, and omniscience. In each of these areas, open theists have challenged the classic doctrines, to which Frame responds. While conceding that God is, in some way, in time and with man, he is in his essence unchangeable and carries out his immutable will. The moves made by open theists are unwarranted by Scripture and assault other doctrines as well.
Table of Contents
1 What is Open Theism?
2 Where Does Open Theism Come From?
3 How Do Open Theists Read the Bible?
4 Is Love God’s Most Important Attribute?
5 Is God’s Will the Ultimate Explanation of Everything?
6 How Do Open Theists Reply?
7 Is God’s Will Irresistible?
8 Do We Have Genuine Freedom?
9 Is God in Time?
10 Does God Change?
11 Does God Suffer?
12 Does God Know Everything in Advance?
13 Is Open Theism Consistent with Other Biblical Doctrines?
Chapter 1: What is Open Theism?
The first question that Frame, and indeed anyone seeking to contend with a rival system, must answer is what defines open theism. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task with open theism because its authors have been primarily given to rhetorical persuasion and emotional appeals than accurate definitions. The traditional doctrine of God has been described as an aloof monarch in contrast to the caring and immanent god who is generous and sensitive presented to their readers and listeners. Audiences must not be carried away by such sly descriptions that would sway them away from the God presented in Scripture. Indeed, Scripture presents a God that is neither contingent on the world nor uninvolved in the contingencies of the world.
The primary open theist proponents with which Frame wrestles are Clark Pinnock and Richard Rice (and John Sanders later on). These and others use the descriptor “open” to define their god as receptive based on the actions of his creatures and to evoke intimate and pleasant emotions. Openness connotes meadows, love, and interpersonal affection. Frame reminds readers that openness is not always good, however, since it open safes are robbed, open fridges result in spoilt food, and it is unwise to leave open the door of a moving car. The God of the Bible testified to by the classical formulations is both closed and open, opening the world and Christ to his children, even as his promises are unchangeable.
In further articulating the open theists’ position, Frame finds a key to opening up their presentation: “significant freedom.” This term, coming from Pinnock rather than Frame, arises out of a larger discussion on the freedom of the will and specifically from the camp that vies for libertarian freedom. Frame will “argue that the concept is unbiblical and incoherent. And, upon careful analysis, it turns out not to be genuine freedom at all, but a kind of bondage to unpredictable chance.”
Rice lays out seven (7) propositions that define the classic/tradition doctrine of God. These, Frame points out, are specifically targeted at the Calvinistic/Reformed doctrine of God, and not even in a universally acceptable manner (e.g. proposition four (4) says that God is equally glorified in benevolent mercy and just wrath.). Rice then provides six (6) propositions, to which Frame adds a seventh, outlining the open theists’ doctrine of God. These are: 1) Love is God’s most important quality; 2) Love is not only care and commitment but also being sensitive and responsive; 3) Creatures exert an influence on God; 4) God’s will is not the ultimate explanation of everything. History is the combined result of what God and his creatures decide to do; 5) God does not know everything timelessly, but learns from events as they take place; 6) So God is dependent on the world in some ways; 7) Human beings are free in the libertarian sense (p. 23).
Chapter 2: Where Does Open Theism Come From?
Open theists tend to rely on the novelty of their position as a means of attracting new adherents. Unlike the old and staid positions of the traditional theism of the past, with its heritage in Greek philosophy, the open theists claim their position is faithful and accounts for reassessed views of the Bible’s teaching. Thus, this chapter provides a multifaceted historical account of the ideas promoted by open theists, one which relies on the historiography of others rather than fresh insight (particularly because Frame’s goal in the book is exegetical rather than historical).
Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Epicurus, Plato, Aristotle, and others have posited gods that left the world to operate on its own principles. In fact, Aristotle’s god, or “Prime Mover,” was primarily persuasive rather than coercive, and Epicurus included unpredictability in his model of the universe. Thus, the Greek gods had contrary natures and allowed for libertarian freedom than open theists wish to acknowledge in their accusations about the Greek roots of classical theism. This is further demonstrated in the non-monarchical and mutable natures of the Greek gods. Needless to say, there is not a direct correlation between the classic articulation of the doctrine of God and the Greek philosophers’ presentations, and in fact, many of the supposed fresh insights of open theism are found in the early philosophies as well.[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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