Jeff Robinson from The Gospel Coalition has some reflections on open theism that are interesting. The title of his piece — “Is Open Theism Still a Factor 10 Years After ETS Vote?” — is a question he never actually answers, and after reading it I think a question that better expresses his piece would be “Is the ETS Still a Factor 10 Years After ETS Vote?” I offer a few reflections on his article:
(1) If open theism is truly not a factor, why is Robinson taking the time to write on it at all and with such a sense of urgency?
(2) If inerrancy was finally settled in 2006 by the ETS, what significance ought we to give to the fact that just last year the ETS dedicated its annual meeting to debating inerrancy — again? Exactly how “safeguarded” (Robinson) did the ETS make itself in 2006 if they need to devote an entire annual session to the issue in 2013?
(3) Of course a small minority advocated open theism in the 90’s, but membership voted not to dismiss open theists Pinnock and Sanders. Isn’t that the point of the vote?
(4) Schreiner is right, discussion of open theism in the ETS died down because people got tired of debating it. But I rather think that reflects the way it was debated, not conversation per se. Conversation pro/con open theism is going on all over the place. It’s the ETS that took itself out of the conversation, which prompts a better question than the one Robinson asks, namely, Is the ETS still a factor 10 years after its vote?
(5) Robinson’s summary of open theism is why debate ended — viz., those opposing open theism couldn’t articulate it in a way that didn’t already reflect their criticisms of it.
(6) Robinson: “Many Reformed scholars argue that open theism represents a reconfiguring of the God of historic Christian orthodoxy.” I wonder how many of those same scholars are kenoticists and does Robinson have any idea what a complete reconfiguring of the God of historical Christian orthodoxy kenoticism is (since he’s passionate about Orthodoxy)?
(7) Robinson: “You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today.” What’s this supposed to mean but that the ETS is either incapable or unwilling to have a conversation about something they admit “remains alive and growing within evangelicalism”?
(8) Ware: “I receive emails on occasion from college students who tell me of their theology or philosophy professors at their Christian colleges who teach open theism as their own view….” Doesn’t this constitute evidence that after 10 years open theism is still a factor?
(9) Ware: “…he said, ‘I have not heard of these people, and they haven’t published their views (to my knowledge), but they simply view open theism as a viable alternative. I feared this taking place back during the days of hot debate on this issue, and this is one reason I argued in my 2001 plenary address at ETS that open theism should not be considered a viable evangelical position.” So let me get this straight. According to Robinson and Ware, the ETS concluded that open theism isn’t a viable evangelical position, no publishing venue within the scope of ETS’s influence is publishing open theist material and no professional peer reviews engage it (which isn’t true, but let’s assume it is)—and yet open theism “remains alive and growing” and Christian professors advocate it on campuses.
(10) “Wherever open theism is found today, whether in the academy or blogosphere, this much is clear: evangelicals must continue to defend the classical doctrine of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and meticulous providence as the view that coheres most closely to God’s Word.” So open theism is by Robinson’s estimation alive and growing, is advocated for on Christian campuses and is discussed widely on a popular level with the exception of the ETS. I’m pretty sure this means the ETS isn’t a factor.