reviewed by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca)
The Open View of God surfaced in Clark Pinnock's "Between Classical and Process Theism," in Ronald H. Nash (Editor), Process Theology, Baker Book House, 1987, pp.309-327. Seven years later the bombshell exploded at the heart of evangelical theology in the collection by Clark Pinnock (Editor), The Openness of God, InterVarsity, 1994. Here we have an important biblical introduction to the open model of God with the discussion of dozens of texts in the Old and New Testaments.
Greg Boyd is the senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church (Baptist General Conference), a megachurch located in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is also professor of theology at Bethel College. He begins by describing how he came to reject the model in which "the future is completely settled in God's mind and has been so from eternity" (10). He views Augustine (see note 6 page 172) as the originator of this idea, which was adopted by both Calvin and Arminius (23), and became an essential part of evangelical orthodoxy.
The open view which Boyd has adopted gives him "a new appreciation and excitement regarding my own responsibility in bringing about the future" (8). But he knows the new model is very upsetting for those who have always assumed "The Classical View of Divine Foreknowledge" And he is concerned that "The controversy over this issue has engulfed our denomination the last three years" (9). It is currently "one of the hottest topics within evangelical circles" (12).
So he pleads for us "to love one another amidst our disagreements" (19). "If we only love those who agree with us, we are in fact not loving others at all; we are only loving the (assumed) 'rightness' of our own ideas" (19-21). The book therefore asks for an open-minded study of all the texts that support the classical view of the future (set out in Chapter 1, pp. 21-29), and also the texts that suggest the future is open to change (Chapter 2, pp.53-87).
The debate is really about "the nature of the future" (15, 17). Rather than the "open view of God," Boyd prefers to think of the "open view of the future." But this does not mean that the future is wide open. "The future is to some degree settled and known by God as such, and to some degree open and known by God as such." "To whatever degree the future is yet open to be decided by free agents, it is unsettled (15). "Open theists affirm God's omniscience as emphatically as anybody does . . . The issue is about the nature of the reality that God perfectly knows. More specifically what is the content of the reality of the future? Whatever it is, we all agree that God perfectly knows it" (16).
In support of the open view Boyd claims that "Scripture describes the openness of God to the future as one of his attributes of greatness . . . a God who knows all possibilities, experiences novelty, and is willing to engage in an appropriate element of risk is more exalted than a God who faces an eternally settled future" (15).
A third chapter suggests some advantages of an open view of the future for faith and practical living. "Life is all about possibilities. . . If we believe that even God faces possibilities, we will be more likely to see possibilities as positive that if we believe God faces an exhaustively settled future" (94). It also encourages us in prayer. "In the open view, God has sovereignly ordained that prayer be one of our central means of influencing what transpires in history" (97). The model "allows us to say consistently and in unequivocal terms that the ultimate source for all evil is found in the will of free agents rather than in God" (102).
A final chapter deals with the 18 most frequently asked questions and
objections that arise for those who live by faith in an open view of the