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Monday, August 4, 2008

Open Theology Defined

New videos are now available on Open Theology's YouTube channel. Take a look at what was discussed during the "Answering the Critics" panel at the spring "Open and Relational Theology Engaging Science" seminar at Azusa Pacific University. The scientists and theologians who participated in the seminar hope to create a new field of science-and-religion research centered around "open theology."
But just what is open theology? We asked Tom Oord, one of the directors of the Open Theology & Science conference and a professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University, for a definition:

"The theological tradition known as Open Theology (a.k.a., Open Theism, Openness Theology) has gained wide attention in Christian theological circles since the 1990s. Reduced to its bare bones, Open Theology affirms that 1) God uniquely exemplifies love, 2) love is the human ethical imperative, 3) God and creatures enjoy free and mutually-influencing relations, 4) and the future is open and not settled. With regard to the fourth point, Open Theology affirms that God knows everything that may possibly happen in the future. But God does not know with absolute certainty what free creatures will actually choose to do."

Given that the movement is still relatively new, it seems some of the finer points, core ideas, and difference of opinions are still being worked out. To the other open theologians out there: What do you think? Does Tom Oord's definition match your own?


wrf3 said...

Maybe this objection is so simple that I'm missing something. But if Open Theology is true, that God does not now know what free creatures will actually choose to do, then one of two things must happen:
1) God remains in a state of ignorance about the choice made by a free creature. This seems absurd since it means that the moment free creatures were created, an "event horizon" that God cannot "see" past came into being.
2) God becomes aware of the choices made. But this means that God changes with time as He learns what free creatures actually chose. This sure seems to me to contradict passages such as "For I the LORD do not change..." (Mal 3:6, NRSV) and "...with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (Jam 1:17).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these good comments! I think your number 2 option best fits open theism.

Open theists typically believe that God knows all of the possible choices we could make. But God doesn't become aware of which option we choose until we actually choose it.

The biblical passages you note are important ones. Open theists typically interpret them as pertaining to a lack of change in God's character. But God's experience can change. If you read the context of these passages, I think you'll find that the open theist interpretation is quite plausible.

One way to illustrate the idea that God's character is unchanging while God's experience changes is to talk about God's love. The fact that God love is an unchanging part of God's character. But how God loves each of us in our development as humans changes depending on our needs and circumstances.

Hoping this helps somehow...