The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence

A relational understanding of divine sovereignty. This book further develops the model of God described in a previous book: “The Openness of God.” According to the openness model (or relational theism) the triune God of love creates beings designed to enter into the divine love and to reciprocate that love. God enters into genuine give-and-take relations with us such that God not only initiates, but God also is able to receive from us and be affected by us. Because love cannot be forced, God sovereignly decides to make himself vulnerable to those he loves–God takes the risk that we may not respond to the divine love with love of our own. God risks that we may not love God, other humans and care for the creation as we should. All this is in opposition to the no risk view of divine providence in which everything that occurs in our lives is exactly what God wanted to happen. In the risk view, God has sovereignly decided not to tightly control everything. Hence, some things happen which God does not want to happen but works to redeem these situations. In the risk model, our actions and prayers, or lack of them, genuinely make a difference regarding our relationship with God.

A constructive view of God, highlighting the divine wisdom, love, responsiveness, power and faithfulness, is developed in order to show how God resourcefully works in human lives, taking into account our actions and our prayers.

The book includes lengthy chapters covering the Old and New Testament materials showing that God’s revelation teaches this understanding. It also includes an overview of church history detailing how this model of God agrees and disagrees with other Christian thinkers. Next, it interacts with philosophical sources in order to clarify what is meant by risk, sovereignty, love, omnipotence, omniscience and human freedom. The book concludes with an in-depth application of this model of God to the Christian life: salvation, suffering and evil, why our prayers really matter, and guidance.

Published: Revised edition IVP, 2007. First edition 1998.