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Theological Book Reviews – God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism
by Bruce A. Ware
Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL: 2000.
230 Pages, Paperback.
If you are a theological student in today’s culture, reading academic and cutting-edge theological works, then you will have no doubt entered into the arena of what is termed “Open Theism.” This theological perspective describes a God of “diminished glory” (if there were such a thing as a “diminished glorious” God). This theological system is an offshoot of Arminianism, but continues to answer, more logically, the fuller system of thought that Arminianism is afraid to think about. The Arminian system exists at a “pleasant” but errant spot on the theological road. Though it traverses to a given point, it really does not take the stroll all the way into the logical consequences of Open Theism (where it should be).
Open Theism admittedly teaches the following: 1) God does not know in advance the future actions of his moral creatures. 2) God cannot control the future free actions of his moral creatures. 3) Tragic events occur which God has no control. 4) When such tragedies occur, God should not be blamed because he was not able to prevent them from occurring, and he certainly did not will or cause them to occur. 5) When such tragic events occur, God feels the pain of those who endure its suffering. 6) God is love, and he may be trusted to do his best to offer guidance that is intended to serve the well-being of others. 7) At times, God realizes that the guidance he gave may have inadvertently and unexpectedly led to unwarranted hardship and suffering. 8) At times, God may repent of his own past actions, realizing that his own choices have not worked out well and may have led to unexpected hardship. 9) Some suffering is gratuitous and pointless, i.e., some suffering has not positive or redeeming quality to it at all, so that not even God is able to bring any good from it. 10) Regardless of whether our suffering was gratuitous, or whether God may have contributed inadvertently to our suffering, God always stands ready to help rebuild our lives and offers further grace, strength, direction, and counsel. (Ware, pages 60-61)
When we read that the mythological Zeus has been resurrected by “Open” theologians (or more correctly: false teachers) of our day, an answer from those who still believe the Bible should be heard. Bruce Ware has done a fine job in critiquing this heinous system of thought. Can you imagine that people still believe in Greek mythology? The god Open Theists have created is a god who can be surprised, does not know the future, cannot really help since his omniscience is denied, and a host of other ideas which create huge theological and practical problems. This character that theologians have fabricated is the material Walt Disney World uses to create cartoons.
I was introduced to this book during my visit to Southern Seminary. While I was browsing through the bookstore (something I always do when I have a chance) I bumped into Dr. Albert Mohler and began speaking with him. I asked him if he were to choose one book (besides Herman Bavinck’s) on the doctrine of God, what would he choose? He directed me to Ware’s book. No doubt he was pushing the seminary’s faculty of which Ware is residing as teacher. I still decided to buy it in light of the contemporary debate surrounding its discussion. In basic and easy to follow manner Ware does in fact lay out some of the more difficult ideas concerning the Doctrine of God. It is not as in-depth as Bavinck’s “Doctrine of God”, but will please any contemporary reader even in light of the debate which Ware was involved in again the Open Theism of Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger.
Ware’s book is well done in that it takes Open Theism’s 10 points and emasculates the competition one step at a time. He does so in a loving, but straight forward fashion. Open Theism’s claims are dealt with by Ware using Scriptural foundation and classic orthodoxy which has withstood the test of time for centuries. It is not that Ware has come up with new doctrine, but rather, he has reformulated old doctrine to meet the challenge of the unorthodoxy and damnable heresy that Open Theism purports. I would highly recommend it.
Although the critique of Open Theism presented in subsequent chapters will be much more specific, let me suggest here that our overall conception of God and our broad understanding of living the Christian life are both deeply affected by the openness view.
The Challenge from Open Theism to other Arminians is simple: Comprehensive divine foreknowledge and libertarian freedom are mutually exclusive notions. You cannot have both together. So as you value libertarian freedom (as classical Arminianism clearly does), then you must be willing to give up your commitment to comprehensive divine foreknowledge.
Proponents of open theism are, in one sense, committed Arminians. That is, they affirm such cardinal Arminian doctrines as 1) The universal and impartial love of God for all humanity and his true desire they all be saved, 2) God’s creation of humans with what they often call “genuine” or “significant” freedom of will (i.e., libertarian freedom); and 3) the necessity of such genuine freedom for true worship of God, love for God, and human moral accountability.