Books on Openness Theology

The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence

By John Sanders

In The God Who Risks, theologian John Sanders mounts a careful and challenging argument for positive answers to both of these profound theological questions. His powerful book not only will contribute to serious theological discussion but will enlighten pastors and laypersons who struggle with questions about suffering, evil, and human free will.

From the author:

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.

Does God Have a Future?: A Debate on Divine Providence

By Christopher A. Hall & John Sanders

The nature of God’s knowledge of the future, sparked by the openness of God debate, is perhaps the most controversial issue in evangelical circles today. It has generated much heated discussion in venues like the Evangelical Theological Society. This book counters such intense discourse by pairing Christopher Hall, who affirms the historic Christian or classical view, with John Sanders, one of the foremost proponents of the openness view. For over a year, Hall and Sanders engaged in a friendly yet penetrating e-mail exchange responding to one another’s questions and concerns about God’s providence and foreknowledge. This book is a compilation of those inquiring e-letters, offering equal handling of both the classical and openness views. Motivated by the belief that evangelicals must learn how to disagree without becoming divisive, they display their respect for each other while vigorously disagreeing about important issues. The e-mail format has produced a series of to-the-point exchanges that make this complex topic more accessible and far more instructive and digestible than a pair of pro-con essays would have been. As such, it is the ideal introduction to the contemporary debate. This book is an expanded version of a two-part article that appeared in Christianity Today in 2001. All those interested in a serious, balanced presentation of the openness debate, without unfair caricatures, will appreciate this theologically sophisticated yet accessible book.

The Case for Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment

By David Basinger

Can God intervene in this world, and if so, to what extent? If God intervenes, can we initiate such intervention by prayer? And if God can intervene, why is evil so persistent? Taking up such practical, but profound questions, a coauthor of the much-discussed The Openenness of God here offers a probing philosophical examination of freewill theism. This controversial view argues that the God of Christianity desires “responsive relationship” with his creatures. It rejects process theology, but calls for a reassessment of such classical doctrines as God’s immutability, impassibility and foreknowledge.

God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God

By Gregory Boyd

Does God really know the future? Does he ever change his mind? The questions are controversial, but the quest for answers can revolutionize your life, believes Boyd. This pastor-theologian invites you to examine the classical view of God’s foreknowledge and the alternative “open view,” referring to Scripture passages that appear to support the open-view position. 192 pages, softcover from Baker.

The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Overtures to Biblical Theology)

By Terence Fretheim

In this comprehensive and thought-provoking study, Terence Fretheim focuses on the theme of divine suffering, an aspect of our understanding of God which both the church and scholarship have neglected. Maintaining that “metaphors matter,” Fretheim carefully examines the ruling and anthropomorphic metaphors of the Old Testament and discusses them in the context of current biblical-theological scholarship. His aim is to broaden our understanding of the God of the Old Testament by showing that “suffering belongs to the person and purpose of God.”

God, Time, and Knowledge (Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion)

By William Hasker

“This outstanding book . . . is a genuinely pivotal contribution to the lively current debate over divine foreknowledge and human freedom. . . . Hasker’s book has three commendable features worthy of immediate note. First, it contains a carefully crafted overview of the recent literature on foreknowledge and freedom and so can serve as an excellent introduction to that literature. Second, it is tightly reasoned and brimming with brisk arguments, many of them highly original. Third, it correctly situates the philosophical dispute over foreknowledge and freedom within its proper theological context and in so doing highlights the intimate connection between the doctrines of divine omniscience and divine providence.”–Faith and Philosophy

“[God, Time, and Knowledge] is an elegantly written, forcefully argued challenge to traditional views, and a major contribution to the discussion of divine foreknowledge.”–Philosophical Review

“This is a very competent, thorough analysis of the conflict between free will and divine foreknowledge (or, on some acounts, timeless divine knowledge of our future). It is exceptionally clear.”–Theological Book Review

Providence, Evil and the Openness of God (Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion)

By William Hasker

“Providence, Evil and the Openness of God is a timely exploration of the philosophical implications of the rapidly growing theological movement known as open theism, or the “openness of God.” William Hasker, one of the philosophers prominently associated with this movement, presents the strengths of this position in comparison with its main competitors: Calvinism, process theism and the theory of divine middle knowledge, or Molinism.” “In this collection of essays, the author develops alternative approaches to the problem of evil and to the problem of divine action in the world. In particular, he argues that believers should not maintain the view that each and every evil that occurs is permitted by God as a means to a “greater good.” He contends that open theism makes possible an emphasis on the personalism of divine-human interaction in a way that traditional views, with their heavy emphasis on divine control, cannot easily match. The book concludes with a section of replies to critics, in which many of the objections leveled against open theism are addressed.” Proviaence, Evil and the Openness of God will be essential reading for advanced students and academics in the fields of Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion and Theology.

The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God

By Clark Pinnock

That Greek philosophy at least partially influenced Christianity is generally accepted, since it formed the foundation of the culture the first Christians lived in. Many of the early church fathers even appropriated Greek philosophy in their attempts to evangelize the pagan world they found themselves in. But was the Greek influence good or bad? The question is not new; Tertullian asked, in the second century AD, “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What has the Academy to do with the Church?”

This book is an attempt to show that the Greek influence was, as Tertullian felt, dangerous. Why dangerous? Because, according to the authors, the Greek concepts of what God was like and how he interacted with humans were fatally flawed, and have resulted in a Christian theology which has pagan notions of perfection at its core. These concepts include immutability, impassibility, and omniscience (particularly in terms of foreknowledge of all future events).

The authors begin with the contention that God has granted humans a significant degree of freedom, and that He chooses to enter into a genuine relationship with them. They defend this position biblically, historically, theologically and philosophically, offering a well-balanced, comprehensive look at several familiar issues from a different, and they claim, more biblical viewpoint.

The unique interplay of the five authors in this book makes it a fascinating read. Richard Rice makes a compelling biblical case for open theism, while John Sanders takes a look at just how Greek our Christian theology is, and why contemporary theologians are generally unwilling to accept the validity of open theism. Clark Pinnock offers what can be termed a systematic theology of God’s openness and William Hasker offers a cogent philosophical defense of open theism. David Basinger then offers some practical implications of open theism, and compares them to the implications of both traditional classical theism and process theology.

You may not agree with the authors of this volume, but the discussion itself about these major issues is vitally important. Learn why each of these five authors came to believe in open theism, and what it means in their lives.

Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Didsbury Lectures)

By Clark H. Pinnock

Openness theology roots its popular appeal in the biblical picture of a God who is passionately loving and bent on rescuing the lost creatures he loves. Open theists believe that God responds to his creation and actually changes his plans as a result of how humans respond to him. In Most Moved Mover, Clark Pinnock argues that we need to have a view of God centered on God’s open, relational, and responsive love for his creation. That picture of God has important implications for prayer, for prophecy, foreschatology, and for believers interested in thinking about God in new ways.

God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation

By Terence E. Fretheim

Fretheim presents here the Old Testament view of the Creator God, the created world, and our role in creation. Beginning with “The Beginning,” he demonstrates that creation is open-ended and connected. Then, from every part of the Old Testament, Fretheim explores the fullness and richness of Israel’s thought regarding creation: from the dynamic created order to human sin, from judgment and environmental devastation to salvation, redemption, and a new creation.Fretheim brings theology into conversation with such fundamental issues as ethics, suffering, ecology, and God’s interaction with the world.

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free Will

God's Foreknowledge and Man's Free Will

By Richard Rice

A brief treatise supporting the open view.

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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