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Open View Theology stands in sharp contrast to traditional Christianity. Its view on God’s immutability is both new and foreign to the orthodox understanding of God. Gregory Boyd, a proponent of Open View Theology, lays out the case for this new view of God. In his book, God of the Possible, Boyd defends Open View Theology while attacking the traditional view of God.
This paper will examine Open View Theology, particularly from the view point of God’s immutability as defined by Boyd in God of the Possible. The Open View will be examined first, along with a presentation of the biblical and historical basis, as well as its implications as presented by Boyd. Next, the traditional view of God will be examined with its biblical and historical basis. Then, both views will be contrasted, exposing the weaknesses, contradictions, and fallacies inherit in Open View Theology. Finally, the conclusion will summarize of the information presented and give a few closing remarks.
The God of Gregory Boyd and Open View Theology is a dynamic ever changing God. He is a God who does not know the future since it is to a degree dependent upon free moral agents. God can not know in advance what a free moral agent will do before he does it. If He did, then man would simply be robots, living a pre-programmed, determined, and unchangeable life. Additionally, if all future events are determined by God, then He is ultimately responsible for all that happens, including evil.(1) The relationship between man and God is a partnership where man exercises his free will and God adjust His plan in light of man’s choices to accomplish His final purposes. God has willingly chosen this course in order to have a meaningful relationship with His creation. He is a God who feels emotions and responds to His creation based upon their needs and prayers.
The future is partially open and partially closed as determined by God. Much of the future is settled ahead of time, either by God’s predestining will or by existing earthly causes, but it is not exhaustively determined. Part of the future is decided by free agents and is unsettled. As a result, God knows the future in terms of possibilities, not certainties.(2) The God of Open View Theology takes risks and does not always get His way.(3) He has decided to share His power with His creation in order to be more interactive in their lives.
The God of Open View Theology is a changing God. He changes His mind and feels emotions. He is dynamic and personal, interacting with His creation on a moment-by-moment basis.(4) He learns from our actions and reacts based upon those actions. He is like an “infinitely intelligent chess player”(5) who anticipates the moves of His creation and responds accordingly.
Boyd provides a number of examples that he claims illustrates his view that God changes. He attempts to provide biblical support that demonstrates that God changes His mind and His emotions.
God Changes His Mind
According to Gregory Boyd, there is no reason to take passages about God changing His mind as figures of speech.(6) These passages should be interpreted literally. We should not impose our theological presuppositions on the text. If Scripture says that God changes His mind then we should interpret this as God actually changing His mind.
Boyd uses Jeremiah 18 to support his view of a changing God. He refers to this passage as his strongest evidence in support of future openness and God.(7) “At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if id does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it” (Jer. 18:7-10, emphasis author).(8)
According to Boyd, this passage makes no sense if God knows from all of eternity what He has eternally decided to do. Boyd writes “If the future were exhaustively fixed, could the Lord genuinely intend to bring something about and then genuinely change his mind and not bring it about?”(9) Boyd rejects the notion of “classical theologians” that this only describes God as He appears, not as He actually is. Boyd insist that the simplest and clearest meaning of the text is that God clearly changes His mind and there is no reason to read this any other way.
In order to reconcile Scripture that indicate that God does not change His mind, Boyd reasons that “God not changing His mind” refers to those specific instances. In the case of 1 Sam. 15:29, the passage reads “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” Boyd writes “First Samuel 15:29 does not teach that God couldn’t change his mind, only that in this instance he wouldn’t change it.”(10) In response to Num. 23:19, which reads “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind,” Boyd interprets this to mean that “the Lord informed Balak that He, the true God, is not like a human being who can lie when it’s profitable or a mortal who will change his mind for the sake of convenience.”(11)
The expanded life of King Hezekiah is, according to Boyd, another example of God changing His mind. In 2 Kings 20:1-6, Hezekiah is informed by the prophet Isaiah that he would die from his current sickness, however, after Hezekiah prayed and wept bitterly before the LORD, God reversed Himself and gave the king an additional fifteen years of life. Boyd asserts that if the traditional view of God is correct, then God was being “duplicitous when he initially told Hezekiah that he would not recover.”(12)
God Expresses Emotions
To support his position that God expresses emotions, Boyd points to the fact that God expresses regret over making mankind in Gen. 6:6 and Saul king in 1 Sam. 15:35. In fact, according to Boyd, God indicates in 1 Sam. 13:13 that He had intended to bless Saul and his household for many generations. God could not make such a promise if He really knew the future. Boyd asserts that we can only regret a decision we made if the decision resulted in an outcome other than what we expected or hoped.
Boyd also points out that God expressed His anger at Moses in Exod. 4:10-15, and His frustration in not finding someone to “stand in the gap” on the behalf of Israel in Ezek. 22:30-31; all indicate clearly in Scripture, says Boyd, that God has emotions. Since emotions indicate a state of change, the conclusion is that God changes and is not immutable.
Although in his book, Boyd does not allude to the historical basis for immutability in particular, he does provide a historical basis for Open View Theology in general. Boyd concedes that the Open View of God is rare in church history. He does write that the fifth century theologian Calcidius held an Open View of God. Boyd states that the view has been fairly widespread among nineteenth-century Methodists. His list of proponents of Open Theology includes Ohio Wesleyan University, Lorenzon McCabe, and the popular circuit preacher Billy Hibbard. Boyd writes that this view was also espoused by theologians G.T. Fechner, Otto Pfeidere, Jules Lequier and well known commentator Adam Clarke.(13)
While Boyd agrees that the authority of tradition should make all orthodox Christians cautious of new positions, he also believes that we should not automatically use tradition to rule out new theological views.(14) He states that there is no distinctly Protestant view around today that was not often declared as heretical in its inception.(15) Boyd reasons that Christ is currently restoring His church and preparing her for the close of this age and to usher in His eternal kingdom. As such, “God is setting His bride free and giving her a more accurate picture of his identity as well as her own.”(16)
Boyd blames the lack of historical acceptance of Open View Theology on the infiltration of Plato in the church. Plato, in Boyd’s view, is responsible for the misguided notion that God’s perfection must mean that He must be unchanging. However, according to Boyd, this non-changing view of God is losing its grip on the western mind and we are finally free to “see the significance of the biblical motif on divine openness.”(17)
From Boyd’s point of view, a direct result of God’s ability to change is seen in the area of prayer. Boyd suggests that a God who cannot change cannot respond to prayer. If God has already decided before He even created the world how things will turn out, Boyd asserts, then there is no reason to pray. The orthodox God is neither personal nor responsive to His creation according to Boyd.
In Open View Theology God does change. He responds to your prayers and request. He is more interactive. Some of the future genuinely depends on prayer. Boyd writes that as a result “this translates into people who are more inclined to pray with passion and urgency.”(18)
The traditional God is a God All-Mighty. He is powerful and omniscient. He is majesty and beauty. He is sovereign and omnipotent. Nothing has ever happened in the existence of the world without His knowledge, nor can anything occur in the future that He will have to find out second hand. With His mighty hand He created man as one of His greatest achievements. He gave man free will, wisdom, knowledge; qualities that He is by His very essence. He respects the free will of man and interacts with man in time; not because He Himself is in time, but because He desires to interact with His creation.
As the All-Mighty Creator of the universe, He is the author of time. He is as far above time as infinite is above finite. All of our actions are known to Him long before they came to be. The future is better known to Him than the present is to us. He is completely sovereign. His plan depends upon nothing but Himself. They cannot be changed from within or from without. We accomplish His plans in accordance with our own free will. He neither overrides then nor does He depend on them. He is God-Almighty.
God is immutable in every respect and does not change in the least bit.(19) In the words of Stephen Charnock “He wants nothing; he looses nothing; but doth uniformly exist by himself, without any new nature, new thoughts, new will, new purpose, or new place.”(20) Immutability belongs to all the attributes of God. It is not the single perfection of the Divine nature, nor is it limited to specific attributes.(21)
God’s immutability is the center where all of the attributes unite.(22) God is immutable in regard to knowledge. Charnock writes “God hath known from all eternity all that which he can know, so that nothing is hid from him. He knows not at present any more that he hath known from eternity: and that which he knows now he always knows.”(23)
God does not know as we know. He does not get his understanding from without, but from within His essence. Because He is simple, His understanding is His essence. His essence is infinite, so then must his understanding be infinite.(24)
A. W. Tozer writes “God never changes moods or cools off in His affections or loses enthusiasm. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when He drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden.”(25) Tozer continues “God will not compromise and He need not be coaxed. He cannot be persuaded to alter His Word nor talked into answering selfish prayer.”(26)
God is not standing on “today” in the calendar of mankind, looking toward the future or past. He knows the future and past perfectly in Himself, in one eternal “now.” Past, present, and future are indistinct in Him.
There are numerous texts to support God’s immutability. The clearest example is found in verses Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29. In Num 23:19 God says “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” Similarly 1 Sam. 15:29 states “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” These passages could not possibly be any clearer. God is telling us He does not change. He is immutable. This same sentiment is echoed in Mal. 3:6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Even God’s very name “I AM” implies that He does not change. In the words of Dr. Norman Geisler, “this statement identifies God in terms of His immutable and eternal Being.”(27) Dr. Geisler suggests that the Hebrew word for I AM found in Exod. 3:14, can be translated “the One Who Always Is.”(28) His name is not “I will be” or “I have been.” But the I AM simply “is.” The past and present tenses of the word “to be” indicate a state of change either from being something or to being something. I AM tells us clearly there is no before or after in God. This is precisely why the Psalmist says “Those who know your name will trust in you” (Ps. 9:10). He is simply “I AM.”
These verses make it clear that God not only does not change, but cannot change. His immutability is part of His nature and as such, He cannot act contrary to His nature.(29)
The belief of God’s unchangability is virtually unanimous from early church history until modern times. While there is current debate over how God relates to a changing word, there has been a historical unity on God’s immutability.(30)
Early patristic Fathers wrote of God’s unchangeable character. They believed that God acted in time that humans might see Him as changing His mind, but that these changes were settled from all eternity and occurred “within time for the benefit of the succession of events to be understood by finite beings.”(31) We find evidence of this in the writings of Novatian (c. 200-258). Novatian makes the point that mutability would make God less than Deity “Because if He does not contain all that is, whatever it is-seeing that what is found in that whereby it is contained is found to be less than that whereby it is contained-He will cease to be God. Being reduced into the power of another, in whose greatness He, being small, shall have been included. And therefore what contained Him would then rather claim to be God.”(32) Novatian here clearly lays out the traditional view of God and immutability by basically saying that whatever could change God, would dethrone Him as being greater than God. Clement of Alexandria also writes about God’s immutability “. . . He changeth not, while everything else changes.”(33) We also find support for Gods immutability in the patristic Fathers Aristides (2d cent.); Melito of Ardis (c. 170); Gregory Thaumaturgus; and Alexander, Bishop of Alexandira (d. 328).
We continue to see support for God’s immutability during the medieval times beginning with Augustine who writes “Whatever hath in it the possibility of change, being changed is not what it was.” Augustine also writes” God’s mind does not pass from one thought to another His vision is utterly unchangeable. Thus, He comprehends all that takes place in time-the not-yet existing future, the existing present and the no-longer-existing past in an immutable and eternal present . . . [Neither] is there any then, now, and afterwards in His knowledge, for, unlike ours, it suffers no change with triple time present, past, and future. With Him, there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”(34)
Thomas Aquinas, another medieval Father, lays out and defends the traditional view of immutability. He offered three arguments in favor of God’s immutability. First, because of His Pure Actuality: God has no potential to be anything other than what He is. Change can only come from potential to be something other than what He is.(35) Second, because of His simplicity: everything that changes is composed of what changes and what does not change. Since God has no parts He cannot change.(36) Third, because of His perfection: whatever acquires something new, changes. God is perfect by nature and cannot acquire anything new.(37)
We continue to see support for God’s immutability in writings from the Reformation. Martin Luther and John Calvin both affirm this in their writings.(38) This understanding of God’s unchangeable nature is carried on after the Reformation as well. Jacob Arminius writes “Immutability is a pre-eminent mode of the Essence of God by which it is void of all change . . . .”(39) Francis Turretin writes “not only change is denied of him, but even the shadow of change . . . . Immutability of the divine will and counsel in particular is often asserted”(40) We find further historical evidence in the writings of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Stephen Charnock and J. I. Packer.
The traditional God is a God who is completely trustworthy. He is responsive to prayers because He knows what we will ask before even we do. In fact, He has known from all eternity what we will pray and how He has determined to answer our prayers. We know God is capable of this as we see He made this very promise to Israel in Isa. 65:24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
Now that both views have been briefly discussed, this section will compare and contrast the different views. The strengths of the traditional view of God’s immutability will be examined in light of the weaknesses of the Open View of God’s immutability.
Stripping God of His immutability has significant consequences on the nature of God. His other attributes, how He answers prayer, and our confidence in Him are all directly related to His mutability.
The attributes of God do not all exists as independent entities; they are inter-related. The direct attack on God’s immutability affects other attributes. They act as dominoes; when one falls it does not fall alone but causes a chain reaction.
Concerning God’s omniscience, it is the view of Boyd, that not knowing the future does not affect God’s omniscience. Because God can not know the future acts of free creatures, this should not count against Him or His omniscience. This seems odd. Either God is all knowing or He is not. God either knows the future free will acts of man, or He does not. If He must take a wait and see attitude in order to see what man does, then He is dependent on knowledge outside of Himself. He changes from a state of not knowing to a state of knowing. If God is changeable in knowledge, then He is defective in knowledge, lacks wisdom, and is untrustworthy as a source for revealed truth.(41) He is simply making a best guest, which may be right or wrong.
The God of Boyd is also a God who learns. Since He can only know the actions of men after the fact, God knows something after the fact that He did not know before the fact. Although Boyd denies it, there is a clear contradiction between a God who is all-knowing and a God who learns.
A God who is not truly omniscience could not possible enact the plan of salvation. How could the God of Open Theology know that Adam would sin and fall before He even created him? Yet Scripture clearly says in Eph. 1:4-5 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” This text makes it clear that not only did God know that man would fall, but that He also enacted a plan of salvation for mankind-all before He even created the world. This is not the God of Open Theology-a God that must wait for men to act and then react.
There is no way around it; an omniscient being cannot increase in learning any more than an omnipotent being can increase in power.
Concerning God’s omnipotence, if God is mutable then He cannot be all-powerful. If God can be changed by an inside influence, this indicates a lack of power to preserve Himself in perfection. This would also imply God is made of parts and one part would be able to change another part. One part would be superior to the other since it could cause change in the part that changes. The part that changes would be a non-Deity and the part that caused the change would be a Deity. All in God would not be God. God is simple. There is nothing in Him that is not Himself and therefore He cannot will any change in Himself. He is His own essence and existence.(42)
Furthermore, if God can be changed by an outside influence, then He would be inferior in strength, knowledge, and power to that which changes Him either in His nature, knowledge, or will; both in an ability to stay the same or an ability to resist the power of another to change Him.(43) God cannot be omnipotent if He is not immutable.
Concerning God’s perfection, He cannot be perfect if He is not immutable. All that is God is unchangeable. His essence and His properties are the same. Whatever belongs to the essence of God also belongs to every perfection of the nature of God. If God were not immutable, then He could change in His goodness, wisdom, and love. If He changes to a greater perfection in any of these attributes, then He was not perfect before. If He changes to a lesser perfection in any of these attributes, then He changes into something that is not perfect. If God is imperfect in any of His attributes, He ceases to be perfect period and He ceases to be God.(44)
Concerning God’s eternality, anything that is acquired or lost is not eternal. If God were to change, then He could not be eternal because He would not always be the same, there would be some form of change in Him. God cannot have a true eternal identity if He acquires a new knowledge, a new purpose, or a new essence. He would be in a constant state of change, each change producing a new God.
Concerning God’s simplicity, He cannot be simple and mutable. If there is a change in God, then something is either added to Him or taken away from Him. If we can add to Him, then He would become compound and would not be simple. If we can take something away for God, then He was composed of something distinct from Himself.(45) The God of Boyd cannot be a simple Being since Boyd maintains that God’s character is unchangeable(46) while at the same time maintaining that God’s knowledge is changeable. We then have a God that is composed of at least two parts; one unchangeable, and the other changeable. This is clearly a problem in Open View.
Boyd attempts to make the case that only a changing God can properly respond to our prayers since He is flexible, dynamic, and has not made His mind up ahead of time. In contrast are the words of Stephen Charnock “Again, what comfort could it be to pray to a God, that like the chameleon changed colors every day, every moment? What encouragement, could there be to lift up our eyes to one that were of one mind this day and of another mind tomorrow?”(47) An immutable God is more worthy of our praise. He is a rock, solid and firm upon which we can always count on to be solid and firm. Prayer does not cause any change in God, but is offered to God to bring about those things that God has eternally determined to give us only as a result of prayer.(48) This is in agreement with Scripture that we should pray in accordance with God’s will.
Prayer in Open View seems to be more selfish. There is no talk of praying God’s will. It is more about God being in a better position to respond to me and my needs. God’s plan and purpose are not addressed.
The fact is that the traditional God is able to be more responsive to prayers. If we pray to the God of Boyd, He can simply react to the current circumstances, whereas the traditional God is proactive. For instance, suppose John went on a number of job interviews and after a period of time decided which job he wanted and decided to pray to God for that specific job. John’s prayer may come after the employer has already made a decision. However, the traditional God knew from all of eternity that John would pray that prayer after the decision has been made. A proactive God would act in accordance with His foreknowledge of John’s prayer. This is consistent with Scripture. God says about Israel “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). We see this again in Daniel where the angle Gabriel came to answer Daniel’s prayer “while I was still in prayer” (Dan. 9:21). These passages not only conflict with Open View Theology and support the traditional view, they provide a clear picture of a powerful God who is more aware of our needs and prayers and is in a more perfect position to respond to His creation. The God of Open View Theology is exactly the opposite of what Boyd portrays in his book. The Open View God is less responsive to our prayers and less able to answer those prayers.
The fear of change in a friend hinders a full reliance upon him; an assurance of stability encourages hope and confidence.(49) A.W. Tozer writes “In this world where men forget us, change their attitude toward us as their private interest dictate, and revise their opinion of us for the slightest cause, is it not a source of wondrous strength to know that the God with whom we have to do changes not?”(50)There is a sense of confidence in an unchangeable God. We can know that He can and will keep His promises. We can stand firmly on them. We can depend totally on them. We need not be concerned that some unforeseen incident may occur that will require God to resend His promises to us. It is only in an unchangeable God that we can truly find eternal security. Only an omniscience, omnipotent, and perfect God can give us this security because only He has the knowledge, wisdom, power to accomplish all that He promises.
Open View Theology produces a number of contradictions. Boyd wants to hold on the notion that he believes in the God of the Bible. Yet there are inherent contradictions between the God of Scriptures and the God of Open View. These contradictions can be found in their understanding of time, omniscience, and prayer.
Of Time not Being Sequential
When faced with the criticism that Open Theology limits God to time, Boyd responds that he believes that God is above time(51) yet Boyd also believes that God dose experience things sequentially with a “before” and “after.” Yet, this is exactly the definition of time. Boyd never describes how this is not time or how this differs from what God experiences. He simply makes the assertion with no support for his claim.
This is an example of Boyd simply redefining a term without any justification. Boyd makes the allegation that God is omniscience, while at the same time saying that God doesn’t know everything. He redefines omniscience to refer to things that are knowable to God. Hence, since future free-will acts are unknowable to God, this does not count against His omniscience. Given this definition, men are also omniscience, since there are things that they simply cannot know. The fact is that God is eternal and this knowledge is not limited by time. An all-knowing God must know the future or else He is finite and confined to the bounds of time just like His creatures.
Greg Boyd implies that the traditional God is misleading in situations such as that of Hezekiah where He says one thing knowing that He intends to do something different. How can God tell Hezekiah he is going to die all the while knowing He plans to extend his life for fifteen years? In response, how much more misleading is a God who develops a test of a prophet that He as God can not even pass? In Deut. 18:20-22 God says “‘But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.’ ?You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” Here we see that God requires those who speak in His name to be absolutely and totally perfect when it comes to foretelling the future under penalty of death. If we are to believe Open View Theology, then we must conclude that God requires of men what He Himself is incapable of doing.
Furthermore, how can the Open View God truly prophesize anything given His dependence on free will? For instance, in the case of Cyrus acting as deliverer for Israel, how could God have been sure that Cyrus would act as he did? More importantly, how could God prevent some other free will creature from assassinating him? What could have prevented Cyrus himself from getting drunk and falling of the top of his palace? The fact is that God could not have predicted such an event if He did not have foreknowledge. God did not make this prediction and sit back with His fingers crossed hoping that nothing would happen to foil His plan.
Boyd believes that the Bible uses anthropomorphic language; however he does not believe we should apply them when the Bible talks about God changing. How are we to know when to apply anthropomorphic language and when not to? According to Boyd, we can recognize anthropomorphic language because it would be ridiculous if applied literally.(52) However, as Dr. Geisler points out, this criterion is subjective.(53) How can Boyd insist that we take passages against God’s immutability literally but not those against other attributes? For instance, God says “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). Why should we not conclude from this that God has the ability to forget? If we interpret this passage as Boyd suggest in its literal and simplest interpretation, this is exactly what we are left to believe. An examination of specific Scripture passages should reveal the weakness of the Biblical support claimed by Boyd.
God Changes His Mind
In order to demonstrate that God changes His mind, Boyd uses Jer. 18:7-10. Boyd believes this to be strong proof that God changes His mind. First, after looking at this passage in NASB, KJV, NKJV, NET, and the NIV; none could be found that uses the phrase “change my mind.” In fact, according to Hebrew word nacham used in verse 8, normally translated “relent,” can also be translated “have compassion.”(54) This is consistent with the text and can mean that if they repent, God would have compassion on them. Second, it should be clear to the reader that God is stating a general rule for how He deals with nations-any nation. If a nation does evil, they will be punished. If that nation turns from evil, the punishment will end. This is consistent with traditional theology. When we are in rebellion to God, we fall under His wrath. When we repent, we fall under His mercy. God did not change; the nation’s relationship to God changed by way of their changing from rebellion to repentance.
In regards to King Hezekiah, Boyd points to this as another example of God changing His mind. Boyd believes that it is contradictory to immutability. How could God tell Hezekiah he was going to die, all along knowing that He was going to extend his life? In fact, there is no contradiction. God does not change His mind, but He does change His acts in accordance with His foreknowledge of the actions of free will beings.(55) There is nothing contradictory in saying that God foreknew that Hezekiah would pray and God would respond to his prayer by giving Hezekiah fifteen additional years of life. It is also interesting to note that God could not have promised Hezekiah an extended life if He could not foresee the future.(56) After all, according to the logical outworking of Open View Theology, there is nothing to prevent another free will creature for assassinating Hezekiah, thus making God a liar.
Boyd tries to explain away clear Scripture examples supporting immutability. In 1 Sam. 15:29, God clearly says that He does not change His mind. It is simply misleading to say that this statement refers only to this instance. Although the surrounding text is talking about stripping away Saul’s kingdom, there is no indication in the text that this is simply referring to this particular situation. Instead, it is clear that God is saying something about His nature and applying that eternal truth to this situation. Additionally, just before this verse Samuel tells Saul, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors” (1 Sam. 15:28). This makes it clear that God not only knew ahead of time what Saul would do, but that He had already replaced him with someone better than Saul. How could God replace Saul with someone better if He had no idea that Saul would displease Him?
Similarly, Boyd attempts to explain away Num. 23:19 which reads “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.” When Boyd writes “God, is not like a human being who can lie when it’s profitable or mortal who will change his mind for the sake of convenience”, he is doing a major disservice to the text. In no way does the text lead to this conclusion. Once again God is making a general statement about His character and applying it to this particular situation. Boyd is not doing what he encourages his reader to do by accepting the clearest, simplest reading. Here Boyd does exactly what he accuses orthodox theologians of doing; he is bringing his own philosophical assumptions to the text and then twisting the text to fit those assumptions.
God Expresses Emotions
In order to demonstrate that God experiences emotions, Boyd uses Gen. 6:6 where God regrets making man; 1 Sam. 15:35 where God regrets making Saul King; in Exod. 4:10-15 where God is angry at Moses; and Ezek. 22:30-31 where God expresses frustration over not being able to find someone to “stand in the gap” for Israel. The response to all of the examples is the same. The fact of the matter is that the Bible does speak in anthropomorphisms and these are clear examples. Even Open View Theology accepts that Scripture does use anthropomorphic language. The Bible clearly refers to God as having eyes, arms, legs, and wings.(57) Why not emotions? Passages that talk about God forgetting as well as passages that talk about God expressing emotions are all metaphors. Either the Bible has contradictions or we are to interpret some of the passages that refer to God as literal and others as figures of speech. Passages that speak to God as immutable mean that He is immutable. Those that ascribe human emotions to God are figures of speech. Boyd seems to think that his “third option”(58) solves the problem of resolving passages that seem to conflict, but he sees a problem that doesn’t exists. In fact, he produces a huge problem by creating a finite, temporal God which is inconsistent with Scripture.
Boyd asserts that Plato is the cause of the belief that change reflects a lack of perfection. Boyd charges that the development of the traditional view of God’s immutability was due to “pagan philosophy.”(59)The fact of the matter is just the opposite than that proposed by Boyd. Although it is true that the Greeks did search for an unchanging physical principle with their concept of God, the Greeks found this in the Judeo-Christian concept of self-existent and pure actuality. It was this view of God that transformed Greek metaphysics, not the other way around.(60)
Additionally, this is a genetic fallacy. The question should be whether God’s immutability is true and not to disregard it because of its source. There is no need to automatically disregard philosophy in understanding God. Open View theologians themselves use the process theology of Whitehead in criticizing the traditional view. Theologians should integrate knowledge and truth from all sources in understanding the One and True God.(61)
In Greg Boyd’s book God of the Possible, he presents the Open View of God. This view of God and His immutability was presented to the reader followed by the traditional view of God and His immutability. Boyd attempts to offer a different picture of God. He views God as changing and interacting on a greater level than that by traditional Christianity. However, this view has been exposed as not having a basis in Scripture or history. It is Boyd’s desire to present a God that is more personal. How Boyd can read Scripture and determine that the traditional God is not personal or responsive simply because He knows the future free acts of men is a mystery.
Despite Boyd’s assumption that an immutable God is a less responsive God, He is very responsive. We see this in the dialogue between Moses and God where God commissions Moses to be His representative to Pharaoh. This is a real personal interaction. However, this is an interaction God knew from all of eternity. God was not surprised by Moses initial apprehension at facing Pharaoh. God even knew that Moses would fall under His anger.
As demonstrated, denying God’s immutability directly affects a number of His other attributes. So then what is left when God is stripped of these qualities? This God is neither omniscient, sovereign, omnipotent, perfect, eternal nor simple. We cannot truly depend on Him to answer our prayers, nor can we place our complete confidence in Him to accomplish those things He promises. This is the God of Open Theology.
Those who promote Open View Theology seem to not be content with an all powerful sovereign God who does not need man. There are those who believe that man is the center of all existence and God could not possibly be independent of so important a being. God is neither sovereign enough nor powerful enough to run things on His own. He needs our help. This is the God of Open Theology.
There is also a desire by Boyd to be able to fully understand God “Among other things, I have found that parts of the Bible and certain aspects of life make much better sense to me now than they did before. I have discovered a new appreciation and excitement regarding my own responsibility in bring about the future.”(62)
Boyd went looking for this God and he found Him. We pray; He reacts. We pull the strings and God does a little jig in response. Man, in an increasing effort to elevate himself, has lower God to lessen the gap between the Creator and the creation.
There is little doubt that the Open View God is more acceptable to some people. A number of people would like to think that they could actually control God. This is becoming more and more popular in our culture. We see it in the “name it and claim it” movement. We see it in “give to get” ideology that is just as prevalent in our churches. We want a neatly packaged God that we can not only understand, but will beckon to our needs like a genie in a bottle. That is all well and good, but it simply is not the God of the Bible or the God of Christianity. Don’t call this God “I AM” or Jehovah. His attributes are inconsistent with this God that people seek. Call him “I AM WHATEVER YOU WANT ME TO BE.” But don’t confuse the two. The only God that man can truly understand is a God made in the image of man.
1. Gregory Boyd, God of the Possible (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2000), 98.
2. Ibid., 15.
3. Ibid., 58.
4. Ibid., 132.
5.. Ibid., 127.
6. Ibid., 14.
7. Ibid., 75.
8. Ibid., 76.
9. Ibid., 77.
10. Ibid., 80.
11. Ibid., 81.
12. Ibid., 82.
13. Ibid., 115.
16. Ibid., 117.
17. Ibid., 115.
18. Ibid., 95.
19. Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 1 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996), 316.
20. Ibid., 317.
21. Ibid., 318.
23. Ibid., 322.
24. Ibid., 323.
25. A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of The Holy ( San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961), 59. 26. Ibid., 60.
27. Norman L.Geisler and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2001), 101.
29. Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2003), 75.
30. Ibid., 77.
31. Geisler, The Battle for God, 110.
32. Novatian, Concerning the Trinity in The AnteNicene Fathers, vol. 5, ed. Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 1885); quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2003), 78.
33. Clement of Alexandria, Philosopher, Remains of the Second and Third Century, quoted in Norman L.Geisler and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2001), 112.
34. Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods, (New York: Modern Library, 1983); quoted in Norman L.Geisler and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2001),114.
35. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1a.13.7; quoted in Norman L.Geisler and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2001), 116.
38. Geisler, The Battle for God, 117-118.
39. Jacob Arminius, The Writings of James Arminius, vol. 1. trans. James Nichols and W. R. Bagnall, (Grand Rapid, Baker, 1956), 440-441; quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2003), 82.
40. Francis Turrentin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1992); quoted in Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2003), 83. 41. Charnock, 322.
42. Ibid., 333.
43. Ibid., 334.
44. Ibid., 331.
45. Ibid., 332.
46. Boyd, 78.
47. Charnock, 348.
48. Charnock, 349.
49. Charnock, 354.
50. Tozer, 59.
51. Boyd, 131.
52. Boyd, 118.
53. Geisler, Systematic Theology, 75.
54. James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible [electronic ed.] (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996).
55. Geisler, The Battle for God, 123.
56. Ibid., 124.
57. Norman L. Geisler, Creating God in the Image of Man (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), 89.
58. Boyd, 23.
59. Boyd, 24.
60. Geisler, Creating God in the Image of Man, 96.
61. Ibid., 95.
62. Boyd, 8.