Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity

Front Cover
John Piper, Justin Taylor, Paul Kjoss Helseth
Crossway Books, 2003 - Religion - 416 pages

"Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow."
--C. S. Lewis

This understanding of God's foreknowledge has united the church for twenty centuries. But advocates of "open theism" are presenting a different vision of God and a different view of the future.

The rise of open theism within evangelicalism has raised a host of questions. Was classical theism decisively tainted by Greek philosophy? How should we understand passages that tell us that God repents? Are essentials of biblical Christianity--like the inerrancy of Scripture, the trustworthiness of God, and the Gospel of Christ--at stake in this debate? Where, when, and why should we draw new boundaries--and is open theism beyond them? Beyond the Bounds brings together a respected team of scholars to examine the latest literature, address these questions, and give guidance to the church in this time of controversy.

Contributors include:

  • John Piper
  • Wayne Grudem
  • Michael S. Horton
  • Bruce A. Ware
  • Mark R. Talbot
  • A. B. Caneday
  • Stephen J. Wellum
  • Justin Taylor
  • Paul Kjoss Helseth
  • Chad Brand
  • William C. Davis
  • Russell Fuller

"We have prepared this book to address the issue of boundaries and, we pray, bring some remedy to the present and impending pain of embracing open theism as a legitimate Christian vision of God. . . . As a pastor, who longs to be biblical and God-centered and Christ-exalting and eternally helpful to my people, I see open theism as theologically ruinous, dishonoring to God, belittling to Christ, and pastorally hurtful. My prayer is that Christian leaders will come to see it this way, and thus love the church by counting open theism beyond the bounds of orthodox Christian teaching."
--From the Foreword by John Piper

"The downsized deity of open theism is a poor substitute for the real God of historic Christianity—as taught by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox theologians through the centuries. This book offers an important analysis and critique of this sub-Christian view of God. Well researched and fairly presented."
--Dr. Timothy George
Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University and an executive editor of Christianity Today

"Here is a weighty tract for the times, in which a dozen Reformed scholars survey the "open theism" of Pinnock, Sanders, Boyd, and colleagues, and find it a confused, confusing, and unedifying hypothesis that ought to be declared off limits. Some pages are heavy sledding, but the arguing is clear and strong, and the book is essential reading for all who are caught up in this discussion."
--Dr. J. I. Packer
Professor of Theology
Regent College

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PINNOCK affirms that God is a personal being contrary to impersonal and static God of Greek ontology. Indeed, PINNOCK restores the aspect of God relation, full with love to his creatures. We notice that this design of personal God is reasonable. For this purpose, PINNOCK formulates the doctrines of the creative love around the only topic “love”, which he claims to base on the Bible. For the theism of the creative love, the vision of God while creating, is to have the relation of love so that the man is delighted some and takes part in its love. It is a dynamic and personal vision of God that it tries to develop in his doctrines of God. But We thus have found out certain weaknesses of its argumentation.
In this debate, we notice two major weaknesses in the argumentation of PINNOCK in particular the reductionnism and the pantheist tendency. Indeed, compared to the nature of God, PINNOCK tends to reduce God to the human proportion. The following points clarify this pantheist tendency: God creativity, mobility, relatively immutable and God being depend on the world.
a. Creativity instead of Creator God
Under the influence of the metaphysical principle of creativity like an ultimate reality in the dynamic Process, PINNOCK speaks about God creativity instead of creator God. Indeed, PINNOCK adopts the creativity like a dynamic basic principle in the universe. This principle raises two problems. The first problem is that of creation from nothing, that is creatio ex nihilo theory. And the second problem is that of continual creation, and consequently the dependence of God of the world.
For PINNOCK, God is a personal being which created the universe and controls it, being ontologically distinct from the world, which is the sphere of divine creativity. We note moreover that, in PINNOCK’s Theism, although God created any thing, It unceasingly creates, while accepting also that God created from nothing. Indeed, the creativity implies that the beings created are absolutely dependent on God. In this case, the theory of creatio ex nihilo does not have any meaning. It can be valid only under two conditions: the unilateral action of God and creation from nothing.
PINNOCK draws its theory from creatio ex nihilo from the reason and other texts that those of the book of the Genesis. However, this maxim must be based above all on the biblical revelation. The Bible affirms clearly that God created by his word: "And God said : Let there be light and the was light.” (Gen. 1 : 3, revised standard version). Indeed, according to the Bible, God created the universe, including the man and the matter from nothing.
We notice with BLOCHER that, God creates by the word in a perfect way from nothing. A logic reason of this assertion of BLOCHER is that if God created the universe from nothing, the world depends completely on God. However, God is ontologically independent of the world. Therefore, God created from nothing and not from the matter. Several reasons justify also this maxim creatio ex nihilo and rejects the origin of the universe coming from the preexistent matter:
The first reason, the apostolic tradition generally accepts the creatio ex nihilo and supports it by the text of the Genesis. Therefore, the matter is not eternal and thus does not have life it cannot create. Because, the matter was also created by God from nothing. The second reason, the universe does not come from a preexistent matter, because the matter does not have life. Indeed, we affirm that the life comes only from what is life. As, the matter does not have life, therefore the matter did not create. A third reason, being perfect creator, God created from nothing by its free act and its powerful word in a perfect way; consequently, God does not need to recreate continuously, because, creation is an act of great wisdom of God, accomplished in the perfect union in the Trinity. Another weakness is that of the mobility of God.
b. Mobile God
We notice that another weakness of open theism is to reconsider God like an

About the author (2003)

John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. He served for 33 years as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God, Don't Waste Your Life, God Is the Gospel, and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

Justin Taylor (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is vice president of book publishing and an associate publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worlds—hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

Paul Kjoss Helseth is Associate Professor of Christian Thought at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota and the author of numerous scholarly articles.

Wayne Grudem (PhD, University of Cambridge; DD, Westminster Seminary) is research professor of theology and biblical studies at Phoenix Seminary, having previously taught for 20 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Grudem earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard University, as well as an MDiv from Westminster Seminary. He is the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, a cofounder and past president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version of the Bible, the general editor of the ESV Study Bible, and has published over 20 books, including Systematic Theology, Evangelical Feminism, Politics—According to the Bible, and Business for the Glory of God.

Mark Talbot (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is associate professor of philosophy at Wheaton College. He specializes in philosophical psychology and philosophical theology and has written numerous articles and reviews.

Bruce A. Ware (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and has authored God's Lesser Glory, God's Greater Glory, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California. In addition to being the author of many popular and academic books, he is also the editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine, a host of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast, and a minister in the United Reformed Churches.

STEPHEN J. WELLUM (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.

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