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Comparative Analysis of Divine Providence and Openness of God

Updated on January 16, 2020
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I am a devoted online writer. I graduated from Kenyatta University in Kenya (bachelors degree in public Health)

Openness and Providence

Introduction

There have been so many doctrines in the world trying to explain the nature of God. People have developed different perspectives of the nature of God according to how they understand him. Among the people who have tried to explain the nature of God are Sanders and Ware. John E. Sanders is a theologian from America who is a professor at Hendrix College. John E. Sanders is known for his idea of open theism in theology. Among his arguments, he claims that the idea of divine timelessness is not taught and cannot be traced anywhere in the bible. Additionally, she says that the writers of the bible didn’t show any reflection to assert the belief of divine timelessness. To support his believe that God is temporal; he bases his example on Jesus. He says that Jesus was born; he suffered and later on died.

On the other hand, Bruce Ware who was the former president of the Evangelical Theological society is also a theologian. Ware is known for his responses concerning ideas impeding in open theism. He presents critiques based on the arguments made by Sanders. Among his responses is that God feels bad when his creation undergoes suffering. More so, he says that “When tragedy intrudes …” you should not put God on Blames. He further responds by saying that God doesn’t want pain and suffering to occur.. he says that God “..Feels as badly about it as those do who are suffering...” This statement specifically goes to John sanders idea that God uses us as his “project.” And that it has been evident through his actions. Generally, the thesis of open theism stipulates that God does not know everything about the future. For this reason, human beings are not free. If God could have known everything about the future, human beings could live a free life. The thesis of open theism is based on the scriptures of the bible such as Genesis 6; 6 and exodus 32; 14 which unravels God changing his mind and getting surprised.

Generally, the doctrines of open theism have received so many responses from Ware and others. This paper shall discuss more of the responses that have been made by Ware. Other than Wares’ responses, we shall also examine Sanders ideas of Open theism. Out of these ideas, Christians as well as the religion students learn several lessons. Firstly, although the theists deny the foreknowledge of God, they still believe that God is omnipresent[1]. The open theism theologians believe that God doesn’t know anything about the future because the future is not there. Secondly, we learn the belief which claims that God is all knowing is not scriptural. That It is a belief which was developed at a Greek Philosophical point of reasoning.

John E. Sanders' Doctrines of God

The Doctrines of openness was defended by John Sanders. This doctrine appeared in his book “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence” which. John Sanders begins his work by explaining his position and he argues against a belief which have for long been based on in Old and New Testament, and both the historical and systematic theology. John Sanders objects a belief that God is in the entire control of everything. In his objections, he prefers using the word “providence” to the notion that God is in control of everything[1]. Some of the tests which have been used by Sanders to evaluate his doctrines of God include; public and conceptual intelligibility, as well as the adequacy for the demands associated with life.

Additionally, basing on his doctrines, he uses an example of creation which he refers to it as “project.” He says that, in creation, God tends to limit himself by creating and guiding the universe. Sanders doctrines refer to God as a risk taker[2]. He argues that God uses us as his project, and has been evident through his actions. He says that, God normally makes us victims of some harsh conditions and waits to see what we shall do. Furthermore, John Sanders in his doctrines says that God is not even aware of the future. There are several things concerning the openness of God that have been mentioned by Sanders in his piece of Work. He talks about the knowledge of God regarding the world. Sanders claim that the knowledge of God is dynamic rather than static. He says events surrounding human life get to be known to God as they take place. He is also not sure about what will happen in the next minute. What he does as Sanders argues is that God normally guess about what will happen in the future. He concludes by saying that, it is not possible that God knows everything about the future, because if he does, then our freedom will to a great extend be compromised.

The other argument that Sanders developed in his doctrines is that, the early fathers of the church were greatly influenced by the earliest Greek philosopher. Among these Philosophers as he says are Aristotle, Plato and Philo. What he probably means is that the earlier faith of the Christians was majorly influenced by the believes of these philosophers. He furthermore says that, they characterized God basing on aspects such as “timelessness” “rationality” and “immutability”. Since this is what has for long been taught in the classical theology, he claims that the knowledge first contaminated by these philosophers. Of the three philosophers, Sanders points Philo must have been the root cause of the contamination. He additionally says that Philo polluted the Christian believes by mixing his philosophies with religious teachings.

According to what he believes, Openness[3] theology is nothing more than an enlightens the religionist against the misleading Philosophies of Philo. Sanders in his argument about the wrong passage of knowledge regarding God. He purposefully uses an example of the teaching from one of the old followers of Philo “Augustine[4].”

Lastly, in his arguments he says that God is limited by the situation which he calls counterfactual of freedom. He says that if the counterfactual decides that something is to happen, that thing will and must happen. He uses an example of Adam, he says that if the counterfactuals decided that Adam shall eat the forbidden fruit, there is no way God could have changed the decision of the counterfactuals. He points out that, the counterfactual is the only limit that God has. Although he says that there is no risk or uncertainties about his plans being done the way he plans for them.

Basing on Philosophy influence on theology, Sanders Continues by saying that the old theology received a great influence from the philosophers, he point out that, the neo-Platonism[5] philosophy which has become extinct still holds a great influence on the modern theology. In his argument, he additionally says that it is vital to says that God is temporal and that he lives and interacts with us as the time shifts. He furthermore says that the idea of divine timelessness is not taught and cannot be traced anywhere in the bible. Additionally, she says that the writers of the bible don’t show reflection in their writing to assert the belief of divine timelessness. To support his believe that God is temporal, he based his example on Jesus that Jesus was born, he suffered and later on died.

Bruce Ware's Responses

Bruce ware offered the responses to the argument that were of John Sanders regarding openness and Providence. He begins in his work by viewing the followers of openness as the lost fellows. He wanted to “set the record straight “to John sanders who is the proponent of openness and providence. The main aim of his response was to make the people understand about the true character of God. In the article he begins his work response with an advice to the Christians that God is a God of love and he respects everybody. He says that God has nothing to do with your future. Neither is he interested in it. He continues and says that, decisions are made by humans not by God. The fact that he points out in his argument is that, human beings are the ones who are supposed to ask God about the right course. However, if the take the wrong course in life, then nothing should be blamed about him because it will be our own decisions. What Bruce to mean here is that, God cannot allow suffering to us neither does he tempt us. He says that human beings enter into Temptations or suffering out of their but not God’s decision.

Furthermore, concerning human suffering, he says that God has nothing to with human suffering; he says that God feels bad when his creation under suffering, evidently, he says that “When tragedy intrudes into your life, please don’t think that God had anything to do with it! God doesn’t want pain and suffering to occur, and when it does, he feels as badly about it as those do who are suffering...” In this statement he responds to John sanders that that God uses us as his project, and has been evident through his actions. That, God normally makes us victims of some harsh conditions and waits to see what we shall do.

In his view, he again says that God must have taken a very big risk in creating creatures that can choose to go against him. He uses an example of the human and angels who have decided to go against him, the angels who attempted to revolt against him. He says that fallen Angels were given freedom by God but ended up doing evils

“God took a huge risk in creating a world with moral creatures

who could use their freedom to go against what he desired and

wanted to occur. All through history we see evidence of people (and

fallen angels) using their God-given freedom to bring about horrific

evil and causing untold pain and misery...” (Ware 2003).

He says that God did not know if such things could have happened, otherwise, he would have not let that happen. He furthermore says that Gods knowledge concerning us comes moment-by-moment of what we do, for this reason, his plans keeps on changing. He says that, what we keep on doing doesn’t meet what he anticipated to do for us and therefore he must keep on adjusting on what he had already planned.

Ware also claims several other things about the doctrine of openness, the claims are based o the responses made by John Sanders towards the critiques of Wares on the believe of the doctrine of openness and providence. Firstly, he says that the doctrine of openness completely denies what God knows and what he can know. This is a response to the claim that God doesn’t know about the future and he even he is not sure about what will happen in the future. Secondly, He says that basing to such concepts can be so much misleading because God knows so much about the past and the present. Additionally, he says that the doctrine of theism does not have any other people to back up their truth. He says that the denial of the foreknowledge of God is only among the theist but not among other branch of orthodoxy or evangelicalism. Additionally, Ware views what the openness and providence doctrine claims as some sort of making God appear to be ignorant. He says that God is not ignorant of his own creation. He claims that he cannot let us suffer or expose use to harsh conditions. He says that the worldly evils such as rape were not planned by God.

Also, Ware asserts that the doctrine of openness proves some form of arrogance. The claim that the open theist base on about petitionary prayers has been viewed by Ware that a form of presumption and that it is a wrong way of having relationship with God. He says that involvement in petitionary prayers is like trying to help God in reasoning.

Comparisons

Both John Sanders and Bruce Ware have several things in common. The first thing concerns the believe in Gods knowledge about the future. They both believe in the claim that probably, God doesn’t know everything that concerns the future. John Sanders in his doctrines says that God is not even aware of the future. He is also not sure about what will happen in the next minute. What he does as Sanders argues is that God normally guess about what will happen in the future. On the other hand, Bruce Ware also acknowledges by saying he actually don’t know what happens in the future. He based his example of the fallen angels by saying that God did not know if such things could have happened, otherwise, he would have not let that happen. He furthermore says that Gods knowledge concerning us comes moment-by-moment of what we do, for this reason, his plans keeps on changing.

The second point that is similar with both Bruce Ware and John Sanders is for the fact of God taking the risk. Although their ideas are explained differently, the message delivered is the same message. Sanders refers to God as A risk taker, similar, Ware says that God must have taken a very big risk in creating creatures that can choose to go against him. He uses an example of the human and angels who have decided to go against him, the angels who attempted to revolt against him. He says that fallen Angels were given freedom by God but ended up doing evils. Lastly, both Sanders and Ware acknowledges the superiority of God, even though Sanders creates a critique on the old Christian Faith, He acknowledges that God is superior to other gods.

Contrast

There are several ways that john Sanders and Bruce Ware differs in their arguments. Firstly, John Sanders believes that God uses us as his ‘project’. He says that He says that, God normally makes us victims of some harsh conditions and waits to see what we shall do. What he meant was, God normally, wants to see us suffering. On the other hand, argues by saying that God cannot allow suffering to us neither does he tempt us. He says that human beings enter into Temptations or suffering out of their but not God’s decision. Furthermore, concerning human suffering, he says God has nothing to with human suffering; he says that God feels bad when his creation under suffering. Additionally, the John sanders in his doctrine emphasize petitionary prayers. On the other hand, Ware views petitionary prayers as some kind of arrogance. He says that He says that involvement in petitioner prayers is like trying to help God in reasoning.

Conclusion

In summary, the paper covers the Doctrine of John E. Sander, some of the claims that he argues are that God is not sure about the future, also he says that human beings are Gods project. He says that God normally subjects us to issues and waits to see what we can do. He also says that God is a risk taker, other things that have been discussed by Sanders include the fact that God doesn’t know everything and sometimes he regrets of his own actions. Sanders point of reasoning opens many critiques, among the critiques is Bruce Ware, Bruce Ware accordingly responds to questions raised by Sanders. Although at some points agrees with Sanders reasons, he greatly poses many negative responses to this theological doctrine. Lastly, from a different point of view, the argument which has been established by Sanders can be said to be so much prematurely concluded.


[1] Providence which means that God chooses to be our providers and as well as to relate with us

[2] Sanders, John. The God who risks: A theology of providence. Intervarsity Press, 1998.

[3] McLelland, Joseph C. God the Anonymous: A study in Alexandrian philosophical theology. Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, 1976.

[4] Pinnock, Clark H., Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger. The openness of God: A biblical challenge to the traditional understanding of God. InterVarsity Press, 2010.

[5] Neo-platonism (or Neoplatonism) is a modern term used to designate the period of Platonic philosophy beginning with the work of Plotinus and ending with the closing of the Platonic Academy by the Emperor Justinian in 529 C.E.



[1] Omnipresent means God is all knowing

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      Ivy Achitsa 

      4 months ago

      Great work.

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      Samuel Nyongesa 

      4 months ago

      Awesome

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