Yesterday was the first day of Spring and things couldn’t be gloomier for many of us open theists. Besides my struggles with how open theism is developing, TC Moore has also expressed his own frustrations, and I certainly appreciate what he has to say, though I’d like the opportunity to correct one thing he laments regarding Dwayne and me. After describing having encountered a fundamentalist strain within open theism, TC expresses some frustration with Dwayne and me as well:
“The next [faction] to demand their views be accepted by all Open theists were those who affirm the early Creeds of the church in addition to the Bible as authoritative. All this time I thought Open theists wanted to be a ‘big tent’, they actually wanted to be an exclusive club!”
Dwayne and I are the principle (maybe the only) ones in view here. And I’m sorry TC sees it this way, but I can appreciate where he’s coming from. He’s devoted as much time and energy as anyone I know into encouraging and organizing open theists for dialogue and conversation. And he’s been making these investments with the belief that open theism is in fact what he understood it to be, and also with a dream for what it was to become. I imagine others are as grateful as I am for all TC’s done to unite and bring us together. Last April’s OPEN Conference in St. Paul would never have occurred without TC. I’ve also put in a few hours over the years talking, writing, connecting, encouraging and debating in the hopes that open theism as I understood it to be would grow and expand. The surprise of this past week for TC and Dwayne and me is that we’ve just discovered that we’ve been working and hoping for two different dreams, two different open theisms.
Be that as it may, his comments about Dwayne and me are false. Dwayne and I have never demanded that our views be accepted by all open theists. In fact, we’ve never demanded anyone to believe anything. We only make demands of ourselves. We always assumed open theism was what we thought it was. And recently we’ve been arguing what that understanding was, namely, that open theism from the beginning was both essentially Christian (and trinitarian), neither of which TC says he’s ever thought open theism entailed. Now, whatever else we have done in attempting to persuade others our understanding is closer to the truth, we’ve not demanded it of anyone. Under pain of what would we demand such a thing? What threat could we make to enforce our will upon all open theists? The thought is absurd.
As for the Creeds, Dwayne and I are wholeheartedly Nicene (we’re trinitarians who believe Christ is God incarnate) and Chalcedonian, which for the purposes of this conversation just means we’re not kenoticists. (We don’t think God gave up anything to take up being a man.) But we’ve nowhere ever demanded that open theism include no kenoticists. We don’t agree with kenoticism, and we entirely integrate our openness with our agreement on the Creeds, but we don’t have any pretensions about open theists all agreeing with Chalcedon against kenoticism. We’ve taken Greg Boyd to tasks for his kenoticism, sure, but not because we think it’s a betrayal of open theism. We only ever challenged his kenoticism because he sells it on the market as a fuller more consistent version of his published views in Trinity & Process and because, frankly, he is very influential. A lot of people will imbibe what he says uncritically, and we don’t want his readers thinking for one moment that open theism entails kenoticism (which Greg has effectively said). If it weren’t for Dwayne and me driving everybody insane with our rants, most everyone would drink Greg’s Kool-Aid and associate open theism with kenoticism.
That aside, we have always believed that open theism was minimally Christian, and intended by the ’94 authors to be so. This, and nothing more, is TC’s beef with us. For this crime we plead guilty. And we plead guilty also to believing that Christianity minimally involves belief in the trinity and divine incarnation (which I believe TC agrees with). That doesn’t seem too outrageously beholden to the Creeds to me.
We may be wrong in believing open theism to have been originally understood by the ’94 authors as non-negotiably Christian (i.e., trinitarian and incarnational), but we don’t go around anathematizing people out of open theism if they disagree. It would be nice if the patriarchs of the movement would speak up and say something about all this to the movement they gave birth to, but I think TC and we understand that at this point that wouldn’t achieve much. Whatever open theism was intended by them to be, it’s not that today, and neither Dwayne nor I “demand” otherwise. Incidentally, I don’t think now the ’94 authors intended anything more than to write a book and go back to their jobs. I don’t think they intended to start a renewal movement in anything like what we think open theism is or ought to be today.
As for “big tents,” we have one. It’s called the gospel. I know TC agrees that’s the main deal. But saying it may mean something to us it doesn’t mean to TC. The gospel — what it simply means and what it profoundly offers — is all the tent I need. I don’t want that to be a cliche. For Dwayne and me it really is the beginning and end and middle of how we try to see things. If some movement’s theme or some particular view, like what we thought open theism was, can embody or articulate the gospel in better terms for today, then count us in. But if open theism is just an interfaith monotheistic tent of dialogue, I’m happy for it and wish it well. We just want TC to know that we’re not uninterested in a generic open theism because it’s too large a tent. We’re uninterested because it’s too small a tent.