I’m not a theologian, nor do I care much for religious rhetoric. In fact, I really wish I didn’t find myself muddling through so much frustration regarding religion and church related issues. I wish I could just sit back and enjoy this time of still being in between churches, but stepping outside of one local body has continued to affect my view, bringing clarity and challenge.
Often, when you stay in one place, under one teaching for an extended period of time, though the teaching can be wonderful, your view of the body as whole can be skewed, leaving a narrow minded view. If teaching is twisted or off-base, it’s hard to see it clearly until you step out.
Taking a fresh look at many different denominations, many flavors of church, and seeing the Holy Spirit at work and moving in all of them, has been very refreshing, and helped me to examine what I really believe from new perspectives.
One controversy that greatly affects the way we view God and ourselves is the battle between traditional theism verses open theism.
After reading several articles on the subject, it seems that open theism is gaining a lot of ground in many churches across the board, but has only been a concept in the last decade. You may, like me be asking, “Well what is that and why does it matter?” It really does matter what we believe, because slight changes can make a huge difference.
My former pastor’s wife often gave the example of an archer hitting the bull’s eye. She said a slight change in the direction you are pointing your bow, can throw off an arrow’s trajectory by miles. We must keep our aim on the target.
Much of what follows comes from a conversation I had with someone who has studied this out. Following that, I confirmed it through other sources.
Theism means that you believe in a god.
Traditional or classical theism is the belief that the scripture is inerrant, and that canonized scripture is the foundation of our belief system about who God is, who man is, etc.
It holds that God is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscience (all knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once), etc… God is bigger than the canonized scripture; therefore, you can experience things that are extra-Biblical, like heavenly experiences, etc., but everything must still be judged against the character and nature of God as found in the canonized scriptures.
This gives you a target, a true north, a foundation: an unchanging bull’s eye, when our sites are set on it, it will keep us going in the right direction. Since the character and nature of God are unchanging, immoveable, eternal, it is a sure foundation upon which to stand.
God is good. God is light. God is love. God is justice. God is jealous. Many, many more unchangeable attributes of God are described in scripture.
Because God is omniscient, He has the play book. He wrote the story, and already knows the beginning and the end. He is Alpha and Omega: the beginning and the end.
We do have free will in that, but He already knows the choices we will make, and the story from heaven’s view point though it is still happening, has already happened. We aren’t puppets, and we have relationship with God, but His view is far above those choices.
This is why it was so important for Jesus to fulfill all the prophecies of the Old Testament. There is much about scripture we don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean they are irrelevant or in error. A classical theist can be ok with new ideas and revelation, as long as the foundation is still in tack.
Open Theism basically says that though God is ultimately in charge, He can change His mind, thus changing the story, and that our free will holds the play book. God chooses not to have foreknowledge of our choices, thus leaving the story and how it is played out up to us. Its focus is on relationship with God, but in that relationship, God is changeable.
This is based on scriptures where Abraham pleads for God not to destroy Sodom and Gormorrah, and the story of Moses changing God’s mind on destroying the Israelites.
I would agrue God valued the relationship, but still knew the outcome. In fact, many times in my own life, I have felt God has wanted to know what my opinion was on something; however even allowing my choices, He already put in motion for me things on the other side of that for my good. My steps are ordained, and I’m so grateful for His ability to do that, putting us in the right place at the right time.
Open theism says God doesn’t have to be true to what is in the written canonized scripture. In essence, His nature is changeable.
There is no true foundation, nothing solid to stand on, because it seems they are saying that though there is God, we are the master’s of our own destiny, because we have free will.
I agree we have free will, but in the mystery of that, God already orders our steps, and weaves His story, because He already knows the choices we make. To me that makes God far greater and wiser than any man controlling his own destiny. In fact, the whole idea, reeks of the influence of humanism. I am my own God.
Ultimately, if we believe in open theism, we have no bull’s eye. This can lead to people saying they heard from God to do things contrary to the character and nature of God as outlined in scripture, and it be acceptable.
For example, “God told me to divorce my wife, because she’s not on the same spiritual level as me anymore.” It doesn’t matter that God’s word says to lay down your life for your wife and love her like Jesus.
Another example might be, “God told me to curse this other church.” It doesn’t matter that God’s word says not to curse your brother, but to love your brother as yourself.
It also leads to no accountability for prophetic words. If I say God told me something, but it doesn’t come to pass, then I can just pass the buck back to God saying that He must have changed His mind.
Never does the consideration come that I maybe fallible, or may have misunderstood the timing or meaning of what I heard. It leaves no room for the fact that we are in error; therefore, we have no reason to ask for forgiveness and try to make things right. This leads to shattered, disillusioned souls who thought God said, but then God changed His mind. Nonsense.
To believe this way, opens ourselves up to all manner of deception, twisting, and going far off course.
Last evening, I listened as a gentleman explained that he was concerned for a friend who was ingesting new beliefs that were contrary to scripture. His friends comment was “I don’t care as long as it leads me closer to God.” I’ve heard similar things over and over again recently.
My dear friends, what “god” are we seeking to get close to then? And for what benefit? Ourselves?
Yahweh of the Bible through His son, Jesus, said in John 14, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” His commandments, His character, His nature is first and foremost revealed through His word. If we are going against His word, then we are going against Yahweh.
I love fresh revelation. I love experiencing a close, intimate relationship with my creator. Yet, He is still God, and still holds all of His unchanging character traits. I love that I have free will, and I’m not made to do things, but I’m also grateful I don’t hold my destiny in my own hands, that He weaves my story together for good, and already knows the outcome of my life. When He calls me more than a conqueror, I can trust Him, because He already sees me as being that.
Whether a person is in church leadership or not, check what they are saying against the written word of God. I didn’t for a long time in my walk, even though sometimes things said from Christian leaders didn’t settle well with me. We can not afford to do this anymore. What we believe matters!