Monday, 29 July 2013

Thoughts on Open Theism

Sitting down to write an article on Open Theism turned out to be a lot more difficult than I imagined it would be. This has been rewritten a few times already simply because it is such a difficult thing to try and define; it is a little like trying to define what colour the sea is. It may be clear in one area, blue in another and brown somewhere else.
So here is my best attempt at explaining what seems to be at the heart of open theology and how I feel about it.

Open theism is a response to the more traditional or classical view on the attributes of God. The classical view can be traced back to early Greek philosophy while the Open view, is a bit harder to determine, although similar thoughts can be seeing in the writings of Calcidius, a 4th century interpreter for Plato. Many traditionalists believe that God fully determines the future; He also exists outside of time and thus does not experience emotions in a literal sense. Open theists reject that the future, at least in the smaller things, is set in stone, some even contend that God does not operate outside of time at all and that the future is unknown even to Him. While Open Theists accept that God is both omnipotent and omniscient, they interpret them slightly differently to most evangelicals. The classical view says of Gods omnipotence that He has the power to do anything He wants to, while the open view states that we should not define omnipotence as the power to determine everything but rather, as the power that enables God to deal with any situation that arises. Likewise, omniscience is not seeing as God knowing everything that will take place, but rather as God knowing every possible (yet unwritten) scenario that could still unfold and how best to respond to that.

Rather than the three “O”’s which classical theism concentrates on, the Open crowd have chosen to focus on Gods attributes of love and the relational aspects associate to that, thus the heart of the message is that God is not behind the violence, evil, sickness or “acts of God” in the world today, neither was He an accomplice in the sense that He knew full well what men like Hitler and Nero would unleash on the world when He was forming them inside their mothers’ wombs. But rather, like the ultimate chess player ever, He is able to pre-empt any move that we can make and still with 100% certainty control the outcome for goods ultimate triumph over evil.

Regarding scripture, they will point to verses like Genesis 6:6-7 and 1 Samuel 15:11 where God regrets decisions He had made, or Exodus 13:17 and Ezekiel 12:3 where God considers different future possibilities. In Genesis 22:12 God tests Abraham so that He can “know” Abraham's heart. There are also 39 occasions in scripture where God changes His mind (like in Exodus 32:7-14 and Isaiah 38:1-5). God is also seeing to exhibit genuine emotions, like when Jesus weeps over the death of a friend before raising him back to life, similarly he also lamented over Jerusalem in Mathew 23. The father also anguishes over Israel’s disobedience throughout the Old Testament and in 2 Peter 3:9 we read that He desires that none will perish but that all would find life in His son.

You could start quoting verses in response to the above ones as well but I will leave that up to you to go and research, just Google “open theism” and plenty will pop up, trust me. I must say that for myself I am not fully satisfied that either camp is 100% right. I think both sides have some compelling arguments and holes in their theology. Because this article is about Open theism though, I will stick to that, I believe that Open Theists are spot on in that the future is not completely set in stone as some of the scriptures above reveal. 

Regarding tragedy, I do believe that God can cause a life threatening storm like we see with Jonah. He may make it rain fire like with Sodom and Gomorrah  Yet in Job we also see Satan use a "great wind" to kill Jobs children and we also see Jesus rebuke a wind that had his disciples freaking out, if Jesus rebuked it you would have to assume that it was not from God. Verses like 1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-3 and the story of Job which speak of persecutions and trials reveal that, while God may not be the author of our suffering, He may allow it for our refining or for other purposes, for example, the spreading of the gospel as was the case with Paul being a prisoner in Rome. Yet I am also very uncomfortable with the classical view when we see a child die and the parents are led to believe that it happened because they made an idol of their family, or that God was pulling the strings for some other purpose. Surely God cared as much for the child's life as he does for the parents? Yes, He will use the situation for good but it does not necessarily mean He orchestrated it. Surely He weeps at the tragedies within a fallen world along with us.

Something the Open View highlights which I like is that bad things happen because people make stupid decisions and the Devil is real and active in the world. Our prayers DO have an impact in the world and we can’t take it for granted that things will just work out because God has preordained them already. Some of Greg Boyd’s thoughts on this are worth a read over at The one major thing however that I cannot reconcile with in the Open view is that God is restricted within time, there is just to much in scripture that reveals that God is beyond it, 2 Timothy 1:9 is the perfect example of Gods foreknowledge. Knowing something will happen does not equal being an accomplice to it, if anything, all it reveals is that God does not exercise his authority over others free will even when He is passionately opposed to those ideas. Obedience is always better when it comes from a changed heart rather than a fearful victim. There may be cases where He steps in to restrain evil but it would be impossible to philosophize about the when and why with full confidence. Open theists do attempt address the time issue in books like Greg Boyd's  God of the Possible, and William Lane Craig's Time and Eternity. I have not had the means to read them yet though.

Overall I think some good questions are being asked and some nice insights being shared, yet we need to be able to reconcile ALL the attributes of God without having to throw away the pieces that we may not like or understand. Some people are super aggressive in their response to Open Theism, yet I think it's at least closer to the truth than Calvinism is. I am far more concerned with the way God gets painted in doctrines like Penal Substitution or unconditional Predestination.  

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The context of "Gods ways are not our ways".

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

These are beautiful words which we often hear quoted, normally when someone has gone through some sort of tragedy and they are asking, "Why God?". I also hear it used a lot when people try and explain how a loving God could let people go to hell. While the words penned above could probably be quoted to someone struggling with tough questions like those mentioned and still ring true. These verses in the context of Isaiah chapter 55 are actually about Gods goodness and mercy to unrighteous and undeserving people which is kind of the opposite isn't it? They are about the prodigal son who returns home when he has wasted everything that he was given.  Men, much like the older brother in Luke 15, prefer to see retributive justice dished out (except on ourselves and those closest to us), but God prefers to see the broken restored. This is not what some would call "cheap grace". God paid the highest price for our restoration and at the highest personal cost. And we have to recognize that not all prodigals return home. Some don't run out of money, while some will remain with the pigs out of their stubbornness or others out of shame, in the end it makes no difference because they have chosen their lot. But the Father  still patiently watches and waits for them. 

Below is the proper context of "Gods ways are not our ways", note verse 7 directly before it.

Isaiah 55

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.
4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

What to expect

So I have really battled to update this blog as often as I would like to and maintain any sort of momentum. But I have come up with the ingenious idea of setting aside one night every week to specifically sit down and focus on the things that I would like to say over here. So please check in every now and then at least and hopefully there will be something new to read. Some of the things that I would like to put down here in the coming weeks would be a look into specific schools or thoughts within Christianity, the positives and
the negatives and what we can take from or should avoid like the plague, the list will probably cover Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant (which to be fair I will probably have to break into bits  like left and right, Calvinism and Armenian-ism, Prosperity Gospel etc). Also the Emergent church, Casual Church, House Church and Organic Church. Maybe some of the communal expressions like the Amish and Mennonites as well. A few other interesting areas to write about will be on Open theism, Universalism and Christian anarchy and books, speakers and authors that I have enjoyed.

Apart from these I also want to add a page on bible verses often quoted out of context, there is such a plethora of them and the real context is often missed and we rob ourselves of their true meaning and beauty. I may just add those one at a time which means maybe the updates will be more regular than just once a week. Once all that is down I might have a look at some specific church doctrines and practices like communion, elders, tithing and so on. If there is anything that you yourself would maybe like to see here then please post a comment below or email me at , yes it's a silly email address (initially used to separate my work and joke email hence the choosing of a silly name) and yes in South Africa we spell certain words differently, color becomes colour, honor becomes honour and mustache becomes moustache.

Ok then, be blessed and let the world know that you belong to Christ by your love for one another :)

Monday, 1 July 2013

In Search of the City

A friend of mine recently directed me to a free ebook called In Search of the City which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is an autobiography which really resonated with my own walk thus far. For me, the best kinds of testimonies are both individual and corporate. We are not just saved out of stuff, we are also saved into Christ and a living organic thing called the church. I have with Joshua's kind permission shared an excerpt below from his book. Please go check out his own blog and download the book as well at, it's a short, quick read with some awesome stuff in it.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from Chapter 3


Scholars have what they call the law of first mention. Basically this means that the best way to get the fundamental meaning of a particular doctrine or event in Scripture is to look at its first occurrence in the biblical story.
With that in mind, what are we to make of Stephen being the first follower of Jesus to die for his faith in Christ? Is there anything significant about that?
Think about it: Until Stephen appeared on the scene (Acts 6) most of the Jesus-followers in Jerusalem were held in high esteem. Granted, the Nazarenes adhered to a strikingly different way of life which led most of the city’s residents to remain at a safe distance, but despite the oddity of their lifestyle they were regarded mostly with favor by the people.
The religious rulers were a different matter, of course. The men who plotted the death of Jesus had little tolerance for this new, radical sect which had sprung up around his name, and they butted heads with the apostles on a number of occasions because of it.
So there had been some conflict between the Jewish authorities and leaders of the Jerusalem church prior to Stephen. The apostles had been arrested, charged, even beaten for proclaiming the message of their crucified and resurrected Rabbi. But none of them had yet been killed.
No doubt there were those on the council who wanted to kill the twelve, but up to that point some obstacle had always served to mitigate their rage, whether it was fear of the people or the wise counsel of a seasoned rabbi.
Ask yourself, then, what it was about Stephen’s testimony that effectively tipped the scale of the Sanhedrin’s rage, consequently earning him the privilege of being the first ever Christian martyr.
The answer is simple enough, if you are willing to swallow it.


The twelve had preached Christ. They boldly announced his resurrection without fear, even going so far as to charge the Jewish leaders with their Rabbi’s murder.
Stephen did the same, but added an extra note.
Stephen dared to touch the temple.
“The Most High does not dwell in temples made by human hands!”(Acts 7:48)
The result of his proclamation was swift and severe, for the charges against him had been unequivocal: “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us” (Acts 6:13,14).
Of course the witnesses were false, but the essence was true nonetheless. Stephen announced a Christ whose coming brought an end to the old Jewish order. In effect he was saying, “Brothers and sisters, God has left the building, therefore so should we.”
The apostles had yet to go this far. It is debatable whether they even saw this far into the significance of Christ at the time. Surprisingly, Stephen’s position was somewhat in advance of those who had known Jesus in the flesh.


Two men stood head to head that fateful day: Stephen and Saul. One man was filled with the Spirit of God; the other was consumed with zeal for the traditions of his fathers. One man had understanding while the other was blind with hatred. And though they held different vantage points, both men clearly grasped one thing:
The new way represented by Stephen was entirely incompatible with the old order championed by Saul. There was no way in the world the two could peacefully co-exist, not for long.
And so began the trail of blood which runs all throughout church history. The heavy stones of opposition continue to be brought down on anyone who would dare venture outside the camp of the conflicting religious, economic, and political systems of this world in search of a better way.
Read the book of Hebrews with this thought in mind. Or ignore the implications and pray that you never clearly see just how deep the rabbit trail runs. But whatever you do, brothers and sisters, never touch the temple.

Not unless you’re willing to pay the price.