What is Open Theism? (Greg Boyd and a question for N.T. Wright)

What is Open Theism? (Greg Boyd and a question for N.T. Wright) June 5, 2013
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Today Rachel Evans posted her latest “Ask a…” conversation partner: N.T. Wright. You all probably know that I have several influences in my theological life and that N.T. Wright is at the top of that list. I asked him the following question on Rachel’s post:

Hi Dr. Wright,

First, allow me to admit that your writing and speaking has been the most influential thing in my theological, missional, and spiritual journey in the last 10 years. Before I was introduced to your work, I was convinced that Christianity was all about pie in the sky and leaving this world – not redeeming it. Discovering Romans 8 and a God who groans with creation for its ultimate redemption – [re]new[ed] creation – changes everything! For showing me this – along with various other things about the historical Jesus, the apostle Paul, and theology in general – I am truly grateful.

I do have a question for you: I am wondering if you would be willing to “show your cards” when it comes to open theism? Most of my friends who are open theists, Greg Boyd and others, are very influenced by your work. Certainly, nothing you have said seems to contradict such a God of possibilities. In fact, your reading of Abraham and Israel as God’s “plan B” actually helps give us a framework for thinking about such things. Even so, what would your thoughts be on open theism? I realize that you may not agree with this position of mine, but I would be intrigued to hear some your observations.

Thanks for your continued ministry to the church!

Kurt Willems

I have not hidden the fact that I’m indeed an Open Theist. I came to this conclusion during my graduate studies. I have a series that serves as a bit of an “Intro” to the topic titled: The Binding of God – Genesis 22 as a Test Case for Open Theism in the OT.

I realize that this might be a new idea for some of my readers. With that in mind, another theological influence that is at the top of my list is Greg Boyd. In the following video, Greg gives a short intro to Open Theism.

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  • It’ll be interesting to see his response, if he offers one. For my part, given my understanding of Wright, his theology, his journey, etc., I’d not be surprised if he articulated something like Richard Pratt’s“Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions”. Pratt’s a Presbyterian, incidentally, who nevertheless attempts to do justice to the biblical record of God’s responses to his creation’s free choices.

    • I should add the caveat that Wright, I think, would take umbrage with the Reformed notion that “from eternity past, God’s immutable decrees fixed every detail of history.” How Pratt wrote what he did above and yet confess Westminster, et al., on God’s “immutable” decrees remains somewhat of a mystery to me.

  • Chip Monck

    This is great. I’ve thought I might be some offshoot of an Open Theist verging on Armenian upbringing heresy, but now I hear, I’m just a good ol’ fashioned Open Theist!!!

    And maybe part heretic.

    • If not part Armenian.

    • Jiaan Burford

      Sorry to be “that guy” but when speaking of theology it is “Arminian” not. “Armenian”. Armenia is a country in the Caucasus Mountains in Western Asia/Eastern Europe, while Arminianism is a theological ideology based on the teachings of Jacobus (or James or Jacob) Arminius, a Dutch Reformed Pastor in the 1600s who split with his contemporaries over the doctrine of predestination/election, which Arminians do believe in, just not the same way as Calvinists.

      Again sorry for the random post Chip, I just get frustrated sometimes being a Wesleyan/Arminian myself.

  • Chip Monck

    Yep…you’re that guy. In seminary at Asbury I loved to make goofs like that just to pull the “that guys” out of the woodwork.

    Of course, this was not that. This was just a moronic typo. Or is that mormon typo?


  • I hear that Greg Boyd and Frank Viola are going to be doing a debate on this topic soon. Can’t wait for that!

  • I will be *very* eager to hear Tom’s response, Kurt.

    Also curious about your “most of my friends” comment. Do you actually know Greg?

  • Sarah

    It’s possible. 🙂

  • rvs

    Thanks for this–highly interesting. I especially appreciated Wright’s point in the video that open theism comes from a biblical worldview, as opposed to a Newtonian-Laplacian worldview.

  • I think this is awesome. Im a big Fan of N.T. Wright and Greg Boyd as well. Im also the kinda guy that enjoys listening to the reformers and what they have to offer and then will go watch tons of WIlliam Lane Craig videos. I think possibilities are what makes our Faith so great, and when it comes down to it, the only real non-negotiable is Jesus….from there, everything else is a conversation to be had and God’s grace to be experienced. I think that’s what I’ve been trying to do/convey with the Burrito. Which (shameless plug) has a poll up that would be cool if any of you folks wanted to come drive some conversation /shamelessplug – Regardless, Thanks for what you’re doing Kurt – you challenge me daily. I appreciate you bro.