A Very Brief History of Open Theism
While the open view of the future has always been a very minor perspective, it has had its defenders throughout Church history and it has never been called “heresy” (until in mid 1990s when some started using this label).
According to some African American church leaders, it has been the predominant view in the African American Christian tradition (e.g., in The Color of God: The Concept of God in Afro-American Thought [Mercer Press, 1987]. Major Jones argues that the African Christian experience of oppression has enabled them to seize a dimension of the biblical portrait of God which the classical western tradition missed because of its overemphasis on control and its indebtedness to platonic philosophy).
More research needs to be done on the history of the open view, but my own research thus far has found advocates as far back as the fourth century (e.g., Calcidius). What’s most interesting about Calcidius is that his view is espoused in his Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, which was used extensively throughout the middle ages. Yet, so far as I’ve been able to discern, no middle scholar thought his view was heretical enough to comment on.
In the early eighteenth century, a man named Samuel Fancourt published an essay entitled Concerning Liberty Grace and Prescience which led to a good deal of discussion about the topic in England. His arguments largely parallel those used by Openness advocates today. Also, it appears that Andrew Ramsay, a contemporary of John Wesley, espoused the teaching that God doesn’t know the future strictly as a domain of settled facts.
The topic was much discussed in the nineteenth century, being advocated by the renowned Bible commentator Adam Clarke, the popular Methodist circuit preacher Billy Hubbard, and some within the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement such T.W. Brents, whose 1874 book The Gospel Plan of Salvation puts the Open View of the future on center stage. This book was widely used as a theology textbook in the Stone-Campbell movement. On top of this, the Methodist professor and chancellor of Ohio Weslyean University, L. D. McCabe, wrote several books espousing Open Theism on biblical as well as philosophical grounds.
At the turn of the century, the view was espoused by Finnis Dennings Dake, author of the famous and influential Dakes Annotated Bible. The view had occasional defenders throughout the twentieth century and became a standard teaching among the early founders of Youth With a Mission.
This is brief (very brief) history only hits the highlights. But it demonstrates that the open view of the future has been a part of historic orthodoxy. The modern expression, propelled in an accessible form through the publication of The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock and others, falls in line with Protestant thought of theological reform. The entire Protestant movement has been rooted in the conviction that the church always needs more reforming, and whether particular theological claims contribute to this on-going reformation or not needs to be tested against Scripture.
The Lord gives David three options of how Israel may be judged. “Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you.” Paralleling 2 Samuel 24:12–16, this passage reveals that the Lord gives people genuine alternatives and then responds to their choices. If the future is unalterably settled in…
The Lord has Ezekiel symbolically enact Israel’s exile as a warning and remarks, “Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house” (vs. 3). Though Israel repeatedly surprised God by their persistent rebellion, he nevertheless continued to hold out hope and thus to strive with them to participate in a covenant relationship with him.…
If a position is true, every avenue of reflection ought to point in its direction. What follows are two more “pointers” to the view that the future is at least partly open (indefinite, composed of possibilities). I’ll first consider an argument from quantum physics, followed by a pragmatic argument regarding what we ordinarily assume to…
Jesus commanded his disciples, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this: ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately” (vs. 1-4). Though this verse…
Greg openly processes the major differences between Open Theism and Process Thought. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0218.mp3
Greg looks at the nature of God’s foreknowledge and testing. Episode 562 http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0562mp3.mp3