Friday, July 23

God's Attributes and Open Theism

In case you haven't noticed, I seem to be working on a bit of a series on God's attributes. I didn't plan it that way, but that seems to be where things are going. And here's one thing that has struck me during my study. Did you ever notice how many of God's attributes--His natural (or incommunicable) ones, anyway--have to be understood by an open theist in a way that is different from the traditional understanding of those attributes?

We all know that an open theist takes a different view of God's omniscience. They claim to still believe in it, but that it simply means that God knows everything that is knowable, and the free choices of free agents aren't knowable until those choices actually occur in time. So what it means for God to be omniscient is different for an open thiest than it is for someone with a more traditional view of God.

(Of course, an open theist is going to argue with the word traditional in that last sentence, but I think their claims about the Greek philosophers and the church fathers, and what's traditional or not are pretty much poppycock. Hmmm...maybe I will go into that more sometime. No, probably not. It sounds like way too much work.)

This different view of God's attributes held by an open theist goes beyond how they see His omniscience. Or it must, anyway, according to what I've been thinking. Let's look at the two attributes I've posted pieces on already.

Can an open theist hold to God's simplicity in the same way I laid it out in my piece? Here's what I've been thinking about that. It seems to me that the open theist's embracing of the moral government view of the atonement comes at least partly out of the feeling that if God couldn't just decide to save people in any way whatsoever, then God's freedom is somehow compromised. In their view, having the method of atonement conditioned by God's righteousness is limiting to God. They believe that by making God's wrath something that must be necessarily dealt with in order for God to save sinful men makes God somehow less than He really is. So an open theist would have to disagree--at least a bit--that any action of God must necessarily be conditioned by His attributes. I think what they might say (I'm writing out of my hat here) is that God's will gives rise to His attributes, rather than the other way around--that God's attributes give rise to His will. This last statement--that God acts from His essence--is the more traditional view of God's simplicity.

And if this is so--that open theists sees God's freedom as compromised if God must condition His will to act mercifully by other aspects of His nature--then it's interesting that they would want to preserve God's freedom in this way in regards to His nature, yet have Him voluntarily limiting His freedom to preserve the freedom of His creatures.

Let's move along to God's independence. God, in the view of an open theist, is dependent on knowledge of our choices--and for this He must wait upon our decisions--and on whatever particular choices we make, in order to work out His will. So their view of God's independence cannot be the traditional one either. Can it?

What say ye thinkers? What say ye non-thinkers?