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Open theism
May
28
2014

Towards an Open, Unitive, and Liberative Christology, Part 2: A Theological Virus and the Roots of Divine “Impassibility"

If you’re just tuning in, we’ve begun a new uber-nerdy/geeky theology series on Christology. In part one, we began by laying the groundwork for a particular type of Christology: Open, Unitive, and Liberative. The “Open” part signifies that this Christology will be compatible with Open theism 1. That means it will entail a relational view of ultimate reality. The “Unitive” part means it will not divide the Person of Jesus Christ as the early church heresy of Nestorianism (for example) did, and its contemporary manifestion, Neo-Nestorianism, continues to do. And the “Liberative” part means it will address the sociopolitical reality of both the ancient world as well as the world today.

To move toward this type of Christology, we had to begin at the beginning: with clashing conceptions of God. From pagan Gentile origins like Hellenistic culture, there arose a conception of God as static, impassible, unchangeable perfection. This conception fundamentally clashes with the God revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, the God of Israel, and the God revealed in Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. The biblical conception of God is that of a dynamic, passible, relational God. Our guide to this contrast in God-conceptions was the eminent Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. We saw that his work was seminal for the Open theist authors of the ground-breaking 1995 book The Openness of God and for leading proponent of Open theism, Clark Pinnock, in his 2001 book Most Moved Mover.

We also began to glimpse how the adoption of the Hellenistic conception of God contributed to the rise of the early Christological heresies. Dr. Justin Holcomb, author of Know the Heretics, identifies the precise pressure point of Nestorianism: the compulsion to protect the ‘impassibility’ of God. 2 Therefore, we sought to show how that compulsion is unnecessary when relieved by the dynamic, relational, passible conception of God proposed by Open theists, since at least 1995. The God revealed in Messiah Jesus of Nazareth, the God of the Bible, is willingly passible—hence the Cross.

In part two, we’ll chart the lead up to the age of church councils by highlighting the thinking of several important concepts and figures in early Christian theology. This will set the stage for part three when we’ll note the rejection of Nestorianism due to its disjunctive Christology, and the Christian Church’s stubborn refusal not to abandon the God revealed in Jesus Christ for the unmoved mover or Aristotle or the changeless perfection of Plato.

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May
24
2014

Towards an Open, Unitive, and Liberative Christology, Part 1: Abraham Heschel, Pathos, and Clashing Conceptions of God

Introduction: What’s the Eucharist Got to Do with Christ?

Recently I attended the worship gathering of an evangelical Christian fellowship who celebrate communion weekly. This was encouraging to me because I’ve come to believe that Christian worship is meant to center around the Lord’s Table, the meal that Jesus gave his disciples, which was received and ‘passed on’ by the apostles. Few evangelical congregations of which I’ve been a part have practiced Eucharist weekly, and that’s been disappointing. But the way over which the Eucharist was presided in the worship service this particular Sunday bothered me. The minister who introduced the Table said things like “we do this to remember the night Jesus ate with his disciples” and “when we do this, we’re saying ‘yes’ to Jesus—we’re ‘opting in’.” Those things aren’t wrong necessarily—in fact they’re generically true; they just aren’t the whole story. There’s more to the Eucharist than just a memorial (#sorrynotsorry Zwingli). I left that gathering thinking: “That’s not good theology.”

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Mar
23
2014

Muslim Open Theists, Politics, T. F. Torrance, and Why the God-Man Matters

Muslim Open Theists?

People arrive at the conclusion that the future is at least partly 'open,' and that God knows it as such, 1 from multiple starting places. Since the 1994 publishing of The Openness of God 2 by five evangelical authors, many have arrived at these conclusions from within the evangelical subculture. This subculture is obviously Protestant, and overwhelmingly Trinitarian. 3 Others arrive at these conclusions through philosophical reflection on the nature of the future and on human agency. Not uncontroversially, others still arrive at these conclusions from contexts wholly removed from evangelical Christianity. (Whether or not the label "Open theists" should be ascribed to these non-Christian theists is still an active debate among evangelical Open theists.) 4

Nevertheless, Michael Lodahl, professor of Theology and World Religions at Point Loma Nazarene University, contributed a chapter to the book Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science titled "The (Brief) Openness Debate in Islamic Theology." 5 In this chapter, Lodahl reports that, according to accounts in Islamic history and philosophy, there arose a group of Muslims which rejected the traditional theological determinism/fatalism of Islam for a form of free will theism that included the epistemic 'openness' of the future.

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Mar
20
2014

Truth is the Justice League, Not Superman: On Factions in Open Theism



'Closed' Theism?

When I surrendered my life to Jesus at 17, I soon began to wrestle with the age-old philosophical dilemma of free will vs. determinism. I read as much as I could on the subject, but remained largely unsatisfied with many of the conclusions that were offered by traditional Christian systemic theology. I began to develop my own way of making sense of the biblical texts—which seemed to affirm both God's providential reign over human affairs and human free agency. I concluded that God has complete knowledge of all things knowable, but that the choices humans have yet to actualize aren't known as settled facts until they have been rendered by free human agents. I thought my view was simply a modified version of Arminianism (which was the default position of the tradition through which I became a Christian).

Then I happened to read Clark Pinnock's essay titled "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology," 1 and discovered that there was a burgeoning movement in academic theology toward the very same conclusions at which I'd been arriving independently. I instantly became an "Open theist." It felt good to have a term for the strange belief I thought I alone believed. It felt good to know there were others out there that shared that strange belief. And since that time, I've considered myself an Open theist. I even attended the first "Open Theology and Science" conference in Quincy, MA, where I met Clark Pinnock and all the other authors of the 1994 book The Openness of God. After that, I became even more active online promoting Open theism, administrating Facebook groups, and starting a fan page for Greg Boyd (a well-known Open theist).

Fast forward to 2013, when I and three others co-directed the first Open theology conference geared toward non-academics. This conference was supposed to gather all those who have embraced Open theism and are trying to live it out in their everyday contexts. Right away, it became clear we hadn't fully anticipated just how different were all the other views Open theists hold. There were folks from widely divergent points of view—not just moderate evangelicals, like we expected. Some who attended were dyed-in-the-wool Fundamentalists. They balked at the suggestion that theistic evolution should be accepted by Open theists, and they insisted that the Bible be considered "inerrant." Open theism had it's first faction.

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Mar
10
2014

How Not to Worship a Black Hole: A Review of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer

Author: Austin Fischer
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Cascade/Wipf & Stock (2014)
Language: English
ISBN: 9781625641519

Amazon

Official Website

Over the last 15 years, I’ve engaged in far more discussions, “debates,” and arguments over the subjects of election, predestination, free will, determinism, foreknowledge and the like, than I’d actually be comfortable admitting. Some Christians care very little for these subjects, not simply because they are anti-intellectual or want to avoid conflict, but because they don’t understand what they have to do with their picture of God’s character. For me, however, these subjects have been critical. I’ve heard it said regarding theology that for many people—but perhaps particularly for certain personalities—one’s head and one’s heart have to agree, in order for that person to genuinely worship God. When it comes to these subjects, that has always been my desire: to worship God with my whole self. That is why I have never been able to either stomach emotionally nor substantiate intellectually the God constructed by Calvinism. I both cannot find it taught in Scripture, nor can I love and worship the portrait of God it paints.

That is not to say that I don’t recognize that many millions of Christians can and do. In the process of honing my own views, I have learned a great deal about Calvinism from Calvinists themselves. I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many long-term relationships with Calvinists, including mentoring and professorial relationships. The vast majority of the Calvinists I’ve interacted with in person have been thoughtful, godly people. (Some unfortunately have not been). Online, however, I cannot say the same. The vast majority of the Calvinists I’ve interacted with through the medium of the internet have come across as arrogant, militant, and intellectually dishonest. That is perhaps why I continue to read books on this subject. A part of me is still deeply puzzled by the phenomenon of New Calvinism 1. In fact, it surprised me that I was not aware of this book sooner. While I’m normally one of the first to hear of books rebutting Calvinism, I didn’t know this book existed until a Facebook friend named Taylor Scott Brown began posting quotes from it as he was reading it. A few weeks later, my friend Erik Merksamer (aka "Mixmaster Merks") read the book and lent it to me. So now that I’ve read it myself, I’d simply like to outline the book for anyone who might read this review before making a decision about reading it, add some of my own thoughts here and there, and give it my hearty recommendation.

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Apr
14
2013

A Few Brief Reflections on the OPEN 2013 Conference

Last week, I had the honor of co-directing the first conference on the Open View, that was intentionally designed for church leaders and laypeople, with Tom Belt, Tom Oord, and Marcia Erickson. Two previous conferences that were devoted to the dialogue between the Open View and science were held in 2007 and 2008, in Quincy, MA and in Azusa, CA respectively. But many Open View proponents felt it was time for a deliberately non-academic conversation. That's why "OPEN 2013" focused on practical subjects related to the Open View and implemented dialogue, rather than exclusively lectures, as the primary method of participation.

The conference was held at Woodland Hills Church and senior pastor Greg Boyd was one of the conference's keynote speakers. John Sanders and Thomas Jay Oord also delivered keynote talks. All three keynote speakers did a fantastic job, and each one provided substantive Q&A sessions following their talks. Dr. Oord even integrated Q&A into his presentation making it extraordinarily interactive. But one undeniable highlight of the conference was Jessica Kelley's sharing of Henry's Story. Her testimony of how the Open View and the Warfare Worldview has helped her process her pain and preserved her faith in God was definitely the emotional pinnacle of the conference. Several of us on the planning team noted her poise during Q&A and her powerful gift of clear communication.

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Mar
16
2013

Freestyle Providence: Hip Hop, Improvisation, and the Praiseworthy Wisdom of God [Throwback Post from 2009]

I spent longer than normal on the bus today because I needed to get a haircut in Allston, which is out of the way of my usual trek from Cambridge to Roxbury. This detour gave me time to listen to music and think. I listened to staples like Pac, 100 Portraits, and Jason Morant. But the extended trip gave me the opportunity to indulge in some favorites by Jill Scott and the Roots crew. While Jill and the Roots make music in two separate genres—R & B and hip hop respectively—the two share in common that jazzy Philly sound. This got me thinking about about the many connections hip hop and jazz share. From there, my mind shifted to theology—as it often does.

God and Improvisation

In Openness circles, the analogy of dynamic providence to improvisational jazz is well-known and affirmed. For Open theists, God's relationship to humanity, particularly regarding his salvific economy, is more analogous to the improvisation of jazz musicians than the direct rendering of notes from a musical composition. The brilliance and the artistry of the music is found in its creativity and spontaneity, not its ability to follow a pre-programmed routine.

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Jan
09
2013

OPEN 2013 - Open Theology & the Church

For those of you who have an interest in Open theology ("Open theism," "Openness," or "the Open view"), you may want to attend the First Ever Open theology conference for ministers and laypeople devoted to exploring the intersections of the Open view and ministry.

Headlining the conference as keynote speakers will be Greg Boyd, John Sanders, and Thomas Jay Oord. But there will also be time set aside for group discussion.

The dates of the conference are April 4th—6th and it will be held in St. Paul, MN at Woodland Hills Church.

Eventbrite - OPEN 2013 - Open Theology Conference

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Jan
03
2013

Building a Boyd of Straw with Sound Bite Scholarship

1. Historical Setting:

 The Openness of God was published in 19941 and made significant waves in evangelical theological scholarship circles. The view detailed in that book wasn't new; it had been held by many Christian theologians throughout Church history2, but what made the book so significant is that the evangelical theological landscape in the United States had shifted and a new regime was in power: Neo-Calvinists3. These conservative evangelical scholars viewed Open theology as a threat to their new found hegemony, so they sought to discredit and marginalize Open theists. Two of the clearest examples of this were the attempt in 2000 by John Piper to have Greg Boyd ousted from the faculty of Bethel Seminary, the denominational seminary of the Baptist General Conference (now "Converge"), and the 2002 attempt to expel John Sanders and Clark Pinnock from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).4 In both cases the complaints were brought by Neo-Calvinists. Another casualty of these Neo-Calvinist inquisitions was Roger Olson, a classical Arminian scholar. He has written candidly about the dishonest and dishonorable ways he was treated by Neo-Calvinists simply for suggesting Open theists were not heretics and that Open theism deserves to be consider a legitimate evangelical position.5 In 2010, Dr. Olson had this to say,
"The controversy has largely died down now.  But there are many stories yet to be told about it.  I believe much of the controversy over open theism among evangelicals was fueled by misinformation, misrepresentation and down right demagoguery.  In many places and at many times open theism and open theists did not receive a fair hearing.  And I know of cases in which evangelical critics knowingly misrepresented open theism in order to create fear of it among the untutored (i.e., people who would never pick up and read a book by an open theist).
 
As I look back on that decade long controversy now, my heart is heavy for evangelicalism.  I was profoundly disillusioned by the dishonesty and lack of sincerity of many evangelical luminaries who I know read books by open theists and often talked with open theists about their views and nevertheless went public with blatant misrepresentations.  I was also profoundly disillusioned by the heat of the controversy in which some evangelical scholars and leaders hurled accusations and charges against open theists that were completely out of proportion to the amount of time and effort they had spent in dialogue with their fellow evangelicals who either were open theists or sympathized with them."6
The beginning of the decade Olson describes is the setting in which an author with whom I am unfamiliar, named Paul Kjoss Helseth, wrote a critique of Greg Boyd's Open theism for the Journal of the ETS (the very group that would vote to investigate Pinnock and Sanders a year later). There is no doubt Helseth's work helped to fuel the flames of discord that led to the 2002 ETS witch hunt. The claim of the article is that Boyd's Open theism describes and promotes an arbitrary and malevolent conception of God over and against all his own claims to the contrary. The article is titled, "ON DIVINE AMBIVALENCE: OPEN THEISM AND THE PROBLEM OF PARTICULAR EVILS".7 As Dr. Olson so poignantly put it, Helseth's article is filled with "misinformation, misrepresentation and down right demagoguery." In this brief refutation, I will address many of the caricatures and fallacies contained in the article, though an exhaustive reckoning is far beyond the scope of this piece. I'm certain a book-length treatment would scarcely provide space. Instead, I must limit myself to exposing only a portion of the many Man of Straw arguments, logical fallacies, and dirty scholarship tricks this article includes. To start, I will detail many of the foundational errors this article makes.
 

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban minister, sometimes designer, writer, preacher, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.

Shalom,
T. C.

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