Open Theism & Biblical Counseling

We reject the claims of Open Theism, an aberrant view of God that has been popularized in the past two decades. The chief proponents of this heretical view of God include Clark Pinnock (now deceased), Greg Boyd, John Sanders, and Phil Yancey. Open theism challenges every tenet of the classical view of God concerning His sovereignty, omniscience, and immutability. Clark Pinnock summarized his view this way:

In broad strokes, it takes the following form. God, in grace, grants humans significant freedom to cooperate with or work against God’s will for their lives, and he enters into dynamic, give-and-take relationships with us. The Christian life involves a genuine interaction between God and human beings. We respond to God’s gracious initiatives and God responds to our responses… and on it goes. God takes risks in this give-and-take relationship, yet he is endlessly resourceful and competent in working toward his ultimate goals. Sometimes God alone decides how to accomplish these goals. On other occasions, God works with human decisions, adapting his own plans to fit the changing situation. God does not control everything that happens. Rather, he is open to receiving input from his creatures. In loving dialogue, God invites us to participate with him to bring the future into being.

Gary Gilley astutely concludes there are four major components to open theism. First, God is not sovereign. Second, God is at risk. Third, God is limited in knowledge. And, fourth, God’s ultimate purpose is not to glorify Himself but to give and receive love.

Contrary to the claims of the “open theist,” God’s foreknowledge is absolute and complete and extends to past, present, and future, including the volitional choices of man. Isaiah 40-48 is replete with references to God’s foreknowledge and omniscience (Isa (41:21-29; 42:8,9; 43:8-13; 44:6-8,24-28; 45:1-7,18-25; 46:8-11; 48:3-8). The Bible also affirms God’s omnipotence (Jer 32:27; Matt 19:26) and immutability (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). He is not a “growing” deity who makes mistakes and then changes His plans.

From the viewpoint of this counselor the open view of God washes away the biblical foundations of faith. It leaves people with a God who is completely incapable of helping them in times of trouble for our suffering catches God by surprise. If God is always playing catch-up with his knowledge then He is continually deciding how to react to our decisions and responses. Worse than ridiculous, the open view of God is grievous beyond words. As a result, suffering people are left standing in sinking sand. Gilley rightly concludes, “One has to wonder, however, if God can fumble the ball tomorrow; if He can predict falsely; if He can be surprised by His creation; if He is at risk at the hands of mankind (not to mention the devil), can He confidently be trusted with our eternity?”

Bruce Ware points out how the open view undermines biblical faith when he writes, “While claiming to offer meaningfulness to Christian living, open theism strips the believer of the one thing needed most for a meaningful and vibrant life of faith: absolute confidence in God’s character, wisdom, word, promise, and the sure fulfillment of his will. The strengthening and reassuring truth of Romans 8:28 is tragically ripped out of our Christian confession as it becomes an expression merely of God’s resolve to try his hardest and to do the best he can.”

Instead, the Bible teaches us that we have a God who is sovereign and has purposes which cannot be thwarted by man. Indeed, His plan for each of our lives was set down before we were even conceived (Ps 139:16). This does not mean man is not truly a free moral agent who makes choices and must accept the consequences of them, but affirms that whatever men (or the devil) may do, God is in control (read Job 1-2 for a refresher course in God’s sovereignty over all). Gilley wraps it up well when he writes, “Perhaps the Psalmist put his finger on the real problem of open theology when, in another context, he penned God’s accusation upon a wayward people by saying, You thought I was just like you (Ps 50:21). This is openism’s problem; their God is too human.”

[Read Gary Gilley’s 4-part series here].

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