I was recently listening to an audio course on apologetics that made the brief comment that open theism is a modern heresy. What is open theism? Open theism is an attempt to remove Greek philosophical categories from theology and a presentation of God in which the future is indeed influenced by our decisions and actions, causing God to not have full knowledge of the future. In the book, the Openness of God, the concept is presented in this way:
“God in grace, grants humans significant freedom to cooperate with or 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.” (p. 7)
Before I comment too much, I need to put my cards on the table. I am not the most reformed Christian. I appreciate reformed theology and I like the tightness of the system. But when I look at TULIP, I have deep biblical concerns about almost every one of them. This is not based on my denominational heritage. I was raised Anglican but never heard these issues discussed. I was a Pentecostal, which is technically Arminian/Wesleyan, but again this stuff was rarely discussed and I was not afraid to disagree on Pentecostal doctrine in other areas. My current Baptist tradition does not take an official position on either side and there are people who believe anything along the spectrum. The other thing I need to say is that I studied theology at McMaster Divinity College under Clark Pinnock, one of the main proponents of open theism. That does not mean I agree with Clark, but I do know and respect him.
My experience in the church tells me that most people pray (whether Calvinist or Arminian) like open theists. Rarely do we pray simply to align our wills with God’s. When a loved one is sick, we pray as if our prayer may have some influence with God. Something within us (whether right or wrong) tells us that prayer does something. I do believe that God does take our wills into consideration. I believe that we do have a say as to whether or not we become a Christian. Against the Calvinists, I do believe that grace is resistible.
However, against the open theists, I disagree that God is limited in his knowledge. I believe God is outside of time and that he already knows the decisions we will make and the prayers we will pray. To deny that God knows all things is to go down a dangerous path.
I would not consider myself to be an open theist. But the question is: Is open theism a heresy? As I said, I know Clark Pinnock and I deeply respect him, not just intellectually but as a Christian. He has a passionate love for Christ and I believe that he is serving the Lord with all his strength. I can disagree with Clark on certain issues but I can not deny his love for Christ. To me, heresies are most often defined by an inadequate Christology, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief of Jesus as the archangel Michael. I have seen no evidence of any heretical tendencies in their Christology. I continue to be skeptical about open theism, but I am not able label them as a heretical movement. They are Christian brothers and sisters that I have some disagreement with in theology.