Theology for the Long Haul

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why I like Open Theism - Dan Smitley

My background:I grew up as a third generation believer in a second generation pastor’s home. Both my grandfather and my father have been pastors for the Church of the Nazarene. So I grew up saturated in Wesleyan-Arminian beliefs, and more specifically in Wesleyan-holiness.

My focus:Growing up in a holiness environment a lot of attention was given to what you were and were not doing. You were being a good Christian if you were not drinking or smoking and making sure to invite as many friends as possible to church. I was praised for my excellent Bible quizzing skills and my involvement in EVERY youth activity.

My lack:Reflecting back on my experiences I realize that what lacked in my up-bringing was a view that my “relationship” with Christ was a real relationship. That “relationship” was not just a euphemism that we used but actually described what was happening (better biblically understood as covenant).

My find:My gateway into Open Theism was Clark Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover. There was a sense of comfort and encouragement when reading his words. I realized that he was articulating what I already felt and knew in my herat. What he articulated, and what I continue to hold to firmly, are these beliefs:

1)That God is relational. The Trinity shows us the nature of God and it is relational. This nature continues to be true with His interactions with humanity.

2)That God is love. Whatever else God might be He is love at His very core.
A lot of theological traditions will affirm these truths and come to different conclusions. Where I came to was that Open Theism best expressed these truths consistently.

If God is relational, and our relationship is real (not a faux relationship for just us) then He cannot only impact me but I can also impact Him. That His desire for love enables me to have free will so that I might return His love, not out of obligation but out of a desire to please Him. If He is not controlling me to love Him then my free will is genuine (Libertarian) and His knowledge of the future is limited.

Whatever else Open Theists affirm or whatever else is attributed to them I may be able to give up. But the two central points that God is love and that God is relational are critically important to me. They give me the ability to have a fuller experience of Christ and what it means to be a follower of Him. Something that was significantly lacking my faith before hearing about Open Theism.

This is just part of my story and recently that story has included Open Theism. How about you? Is your story similar? What have you heard about Open Theism and how have you reacted to it?

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