Friday, August 17, 2007

Review of 'The Openness of God' (part 6 - chapter 5 and conclusion)

[continued on from here, here, here, here and here]

Chapter 5

In this final chapter, David Basinger decides to look at the implications the open view of God would have on 5 major areas of Christian living and theology, namely Petitionary prayer, discernment of God's will, appropriate Christian explanation(s) for evil, appropriate Christian response to social problems and the Christian's evangelistic obligations (p. 156). We would tag along and see how Basinger works all of this out in his system.

Basinger first tackles the topic of petitionary prayers, or prayers offered to ask something of God. Basinger acknowledges that proponents of specific sovereignty, which includes most who call themselves Calvinists, do believe that there are certain things God would not do if prayer was not offered, but that if it is God's will that such things be carried out, then such a prayer would definitely be offered (p. 158). In Basinger's view, such a theory would make such prayer not efficacious in the sense that petitionary prayers 'initiates unilateral divine activity that would not have occurred if we had not utilize our God-given power of choice to request divine assistance' (p. 160). In other words, without the exercise of genuine libertarian free will, petitionary prayer cannot be said to efficacious in Basinger's view. Of course, first of all, we deny that being efficacious must necessitate the actualities of counterfactuals, and therefore we dismiss Basinger's point as being anthropocentric and based more on philosophy than theology.

Let us then look then into Basinger's own view of petitionary prayer. As can be expected, since God is supposed to respect the free will of the creature, the problem the open theist view faces concerns petitionary prayers being offered on behalf of another person. As Basinger states, 'most of us affirm the open view of God doubt that He would override the freedom of one individual primarily because He was asked to do so by another' (p. 161). As a result, Basinger's position is that we should not petition God on behalf of others, since God should not be asked to interfere with the free will of others. To allow for more variety of views, Basinger, quoting his compatriots William Hasker and John Sanders, says that some of his fellow Open Theists believe that such prayers offered on behalf of another could result in God using all the noncoercive influence that He can justifiably exert on the person being prayed for (p. 161). Therefore, in other words, even if we allow for Hasker's and Sanders' position, God may still fail in accomplishing what He sets out to do. Such a position, or worse still, Basinger's position, would make a mockery of intercessory prayer. It is a fact that Christian worldwide pray that God will bring their loved ones to salvation, but according to Basinger, that is folly, while Hasker's and Sanders' position make God powerless to ensure an answer to such a prayer, except 'I tried'. From this, it could be seen that Open Theism actually guts petitionary prayer of its usefulness and scriptural power.

With regards to the next topic of God's guidance, Basinger frankly acknowledges the troubles his system would face with regards to this topic, but insists that other systems also have faults and thus The Open Theist system is more liveable, stating that at least Open Theists do not need to continually wonder whether they are following God's will for their lives. However, that is only applicable to those who do not understand how God's will is worked through their lives, and therefore want visible if not audible guidance. For those who are more interested in following the commands and decrees of God, this is a non-issue. When discussing human suffering, Basinger dismisses the Calvinist belief of evil being nongratuitous — that evil must be viewed as a necessary means to a greater good in the sense that it is something that God causes or allows because it is a necessary component in His preordained plan. Basinger, unlike Hasker, merely denies that evil is nongratuitous and is honest enough to state that for him, he rejects such reasoning because of the psychological benefits it gives him.

Basinger then takes on the topic of Social Responsibility. On this topic, he critiques the specific sovereignty system as saying that since God is the primary reason why something is so, then there is less impetus for us to correct social ills, as opposed to the Open theist position whereby whatever we do would make a 'real impact' on the world (p. 172). This is the same argument he advanced against Calvinism with regards to Evangelistic Responsibility, in saying that in Calvinism, it can never be said that 'we [humans] bear direct responsibility for the status of any other person's relationship with God' (p. 174), whereas in the Open Theist system, such a statement could be said. In both of these criticisms, Basinger makes the same error as almost all non-Calvinists in assuming that somehow ability or inability implies responsibility. Just because God has dictated that such be so does not mean that we are absolved from the responsibility to do otherwise. Our responsibility is tied to what God demands of us, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what God has caused to happen. Furthermore, it could be the case whereby God would be using us to correct some social ill or to share the Gospel with someone, and who are we to suggest otherwise? No one knows the secret things of God (Deut. 29:29) and thus we should not try to second-guess whether such a social ill is indeed God's will or whether his will is for us to do something about it. Similarly, in evangelism, we should not EVEN attempt to second-guess God in deciding whether this person or that person is predestined to heaven or hell but to obey God in proclaiming the Gospel and leaving the results to Him. Basinger thus make the same fallacy of confusing ability and responsibility, and thus his arguments are invalid.


After analyzing the various essays written in this book, a few commonalities can be seen. All of them have a humanistic view of the love of God and make all other attributes of God subservient to what they think is the love of God. Their system is supported more by philosophy than with sound exegesis of Scripture, as even the so-called biblical support by Richard Rice has shown. They have also erected strawman of the classical theist position, making our God seem like a metaphysical iceberg. After analyzing all their arguments, it could be safely said that their position is found wanting scripturally, historically, theologically and practically, and philosophically not superior to other systems especially the traditional biblical view. As such, since the topic is of such vital importance and they have been found to be wrong, Open theism is declared to be heresy, and their proponents called to repentance in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


No comments: