Continental Philosophers of Religion on Open Theism

Most of the philosophical discussion of open theism has been done by “analytic” philosophers but there are several philosophers who practice an approach to philosophy of religion known as Continental philosophy who affirm open theism.

One is John Davenport at Fordham University.

He rejects many of the divine attributes as affirmed by classical theism. He draws upon open theism, Kierkegaard, Levinas, and others to develop themes associated with a “new existential model” which accentuates deep divine relationality with creatures. It is a very thought provoking chapter. He affirms dynamic omniscience and rejects exhaustive definite foreknowledge. Divine love is the key characteristic of God. He affirms creation ex nihilo along with a final eschatological kingdom in which evil is overcome.

See John Davenport, “A New Existential Model of God: A Synthesis of Themes from Kierkegaard, Buber, Levinas, and Open Theism,” in J. Diller and A. Kasher (eds.) Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities (Springer, 2013).

A second is J. Aaron Simmons at Furman University. He has written a lot on philosophy of religion and has been an open theist for quite some time. Though trained in Continental approaches, he is well versed in analytic philosophy as well. Simmons and Sanders were colleagues for a few years and have coauthored the following article.

Simmons, J. Aaron and John Sanders. “A Goldilocks God: Open Theism as a Feuerbachian Alternative?” Element 6, no. 2 (fall 2015): 35-55. This article is available on this website.

A third is Keith Putt of Samford University.

He compares and contrasts the ways God is understood by John Caputo, Richard Kearney, and open theism. He suggests that there are a number of affinities between the writings of these Continental philosophers of religion and open theism. All criticize classical theism and, instead, affirm divine vulnerability centered in love. All affirm a future of multiple possibilities and unknowability. Putt does show some important differences between Caputo’s ideas of God and open theism. These center on divine agency. For open theism (and Kearney) God is an agent with intentions and goals but for Caputo, God is lacks agency.

Keith Putt. “Risking Love and the Divine ‘Perhaps’: Postmodern Poetics of a Vulnerable God.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 34.2 (2007): 193-214.

Fouth is Richard Kearney, an Irish philosopher in the Roman Catholic tradition at Boston College. See his The God Who May Be: A Hermeneutics of Religion (2001). In “Khora or God?” in A Passion for the Impossible, Mark Dooley ed., (SUNY, 2003), 107-122, Kearney criticizes Caputo for forsaking God understood as a loving agent who works with us to bring about justice and love in an open future.

Finally, I do not classify Jack Caputo as an open theist because he denies that God is an agent. On Caputo see The Weakness of God (2006). Also see Sanders’s “Can the Call be Traced? Some Reflections on the ‘God’ of Jack Caputo” on this website.

John Sanders

John E. Sanders is an American theologian who is a professor of religious studies at Hendrix College. He has published on four main topics: (1) open theism, (2) Christian views on the salvation of non-Christians, (3) Christian views on the nature of hell, and (4) applying cognitive linguistics to theology.

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