One of our passions here at Open Orthodoxy is to explore how open theism might integrate with other core Orthodox beliefs, or, we’d argue, how it already implies these beliefs. Recent debates have clarified just what’s at the heart of open theism, so I’ll toss this out again just to have in front of us:
– Divine benevolence
– Creation ex nihilo
– Causal openness grounded in creaturely freedom
– Divine epistemic openness
Open theism is at least this. Simply (and more colloquially) put:
God who is love creates freely and unnecessarily and in love intends all he creates to participate in and reflect in its own measured way his divine goodness, and to this end God endows human beings with the freedom to determine themselves relative to the excellencies of their unique God-given purpose or telos. And so far as creation is free to self-determine, the future is open (‘causally open’) and this openness would be reflected in God’s knowledge of the world as well (thus ‘divine epistemic openness’ or ‘dynamic omniscience’). That much is just open theism—explicitly stated.
To say this much is both to end and to start a conversation. Brought to an end are those debates over what open theism is and the vision it promotes. That conversation has come to an end, however much we might need to revisit it. Hopefully not much. But having said this, another conversation has just begun, for this narrow ‘open theistic’ proposition is an invitation to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, to go where no…
…Sorry, got carried away there. These five propositions don’t drop out of sky in self-contained packages. They all have their own arguments and entailments. In this sense open theism is a journey, and exploration, and its map, you might say, is just P1-5. But the map isn’t the territory. Actually visiting these locations reveals more as you approach the details of each landmark.
Creation ex nihilo, for example, has to mean the perfections of divine being/existence do not require a created order of any kind. This is commonly called divine aseity. But what might these perfections be? What is it about God’s self-sufficient fullness that requires nothing of or from any kind of created order but yet remains free to fully enter into the world’s becoming as its ground and telos? In what sense are we to understand God, free from the world in his self-sufficiency, to be love? What is it to posit ‘divine benevolence’ — a core conviction of open theism — within the context of divine aseity and the absence of the world’s contributions?
This lands us in a discussion of divine transcendence as that sense in which the beauties and perfections of divine being as divine goodness and love are not constituted by creation and can’t be voided by anything in creation. At the same time, this ‘freedom from creation’ can hardly mean that the divine beauties and perfections — whatever they are — survive alongside creation by being shut out of the ebb and flow of creation’s becoming, as if it were the case that were God to ‘experience the world’ he’d be contaminated by it. Transcendence cannot be avoidance and thus absence. Rather, it is the truth of the abiding fullness of God’s goodness and love in his experience of the world. Google ‘self-sufficiency’ (as I did) and you’ll see that ‘self-sufficiency’ in the negative sense as survival via shutting out the world and locking oneself in, excluding some slice of what exists from one’s experience; the successful dodging of this or that threat. As one housing model puts it: “Going it alone.” But this is not the model of God’s relationship to the world at the heart of open theism’s vision (nor, I should say, at the heart of Orthodoxy).
I think the first major landmark of five on the open theist’s map which open theists should convene to discuss, if only because it’s assumed at a deeper level in our worldview than other points on the map and because it has great power to shape one’s thinking on other matters, is what it implies about God as love to say he creates ex nihilo.
Just a thought.