God of the Possible by Dr. Gregory Boyd was a difficult read for me. It is a theological book that challenges the traditional view of God (mostly my ideas) and argues for the ‘open view of the future.’ It was difficult for me, not because the writing was poor or that the logic was faulty, but the exact opposite. This was an easy-to-understand book that took me awhile because I had to put it down so frequently to think about the ideas that were being presented. (Mainly because he launched an arsenal of WMD’s on my theology).
Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and taught theology for 16 years at Bethel University in Minnesota. He is undoubtedly a smart dude. If I was being gut-level-honest, prior to reading this book I would have just assumed you called it, ‘an introduction to what bad theologians think.’ Pretty arrogant huh? But, lately the idea of the ‘open view of God’ or the ‘open view of the future’ has gained some traction with close friends. I wanted to investigate for myself what the theology was all about, honestly expecting to better refute the ideas once I learned them.
In a nutshell, the open view argues that the future is partly open – that means it includes BOTH possibilities and certainties. An open theist, in their opinion, is NOT arguing against God’s omniscience (this was my primary misunderstanding). They instead will argue about the nature of reality and the future, which is why the theology is also called ‘the open view of the future.’ This view says that God knows ‘all things that can be known’ but the nature of reality prohibits God from knowing the future exhaustively.
I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I’m thinking it too: But God knows ALL THINGS past, present, and future!
Gregory Boyd argues that the ideas of God knowing all things exhaustively, God functioning outside of time, and being COMPLETELY unchanging, are ideas that have transferred over from classical Greek philosophy, namely Plato. Boyd refutes classical theological notions of God foreknowing all things and predetermining every outcome by pointing to the overwhelming amount of times that God relents, repents, changes His mind, and reacts to human behavior. These examples in the classical/traditional motif are described as ‘anthropomorphisms’ or the attribution of human characteristics to God. And for some reason that explanation has never quite jived with me… maybe in a couple of examples I can understand – but dozens and dozens of times seem too much to write it off as a human way of understanding what God is doing.
I’m not at all saying I’m buying into these ideas but it has certainly launched a search for me to investigate why I believe what I believe… are my beliefs rooted in scripture, or are they derivatives of teachings and hand-me-down notions of God that have been around for hundreds of years? Our view of God should always be drawn from the conclusions that we extract from the Word of God, as opposed to blindly believing what is said by people we respect (that is not to say these traditions are wrong). My opinion of people who adhere to the Open View has dramatically changed… It is not a dumb theology that ignores logic and scripture, nor is it based solely on emotional arguments. It really does raise a great deal of questions for me that I need to answer. And if anything, it helped me to see again that our disagreements with our brothers & sisters over doctrines and dogmas do nothing to either of our positions in the body of Christ. We are still family.
God of the Possible is a great read that utilizes powerful rhetoric. And despite what conclusions I may come to, it made me think about the nature of God all week, and then some – something I believe a 5 point Calvinist or an intense Open Theist would agree is a good thing (I hope). And for that reason, I would put it on the 4th bookshelf out 5.