By William R. Baker
The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God
The most important volume available on open theology is the one that launched this new perspective into the academic limelight. It is an academic book, with chapters devoted to the impact of this view on five areas of thought from five different authors.
Richard Rice lays the foundation from the Bible; John Sanders tackles history; Clark Pinnock, theology; William Hasker, philosophy; and David Basinger, practicality. Footnotes are pushed to the back to help general readers absorb the new thoughts being presented.
All the basic issues developed in later books emanate from this one. The first paragraph of the preface compacts open theology into something almost creedal in its careful wording. The second sentence is the focal point: “God, in grace, grants humans significant freedom to cooperate with or work against God’s will for their lives, and he enters into dynamic, give-and-take relationships with us” (p. 7).
God of the Possible
By Gregory Boyd
If Openness of God sounds too academic for some, this little volume is hands down the best popular read on open theology. It is tenderly crafted with a view to those are theologically inexperienced.
Boyd, both an active pastor (Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul, Minnesota) and classroom theologian (he taught at Bethel University in St. Paul)—who at one point ministered with a Disciples of Christ congregation—is a masterful communicator. He writes: “The debate between the open and classical understandings of divine foreknowledge is completely a debate over the nature of the future: Is it exhaustively settled from all eternity, or is it partly open? That is the question at hand, nothing else” (p. 17).
God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism
By Bruce Ware
This is the most notable book that takes on open theology. From the opening page, Ware challenges Boyd’s view that open theology is peripheral to the heart of Christian faith, a matter for gentlemanly dialogue. Ware contends what is at stake is foundational: “The whole picture of who God is.” Ware proceeds to take on Openness of God, God of the Possible, and John Sanders’s The God Who Risks (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998) point by point.
Does God Have a Future?: A Debate on Divine Providence
By Christopher Hall and John Sanders
This is by far the best book to see the classic view of God and the open model laid out in relationship to one another—without animosity—and with a real effort toward understanding.
Basically, this is publication of an ongoing e-mail discussion/debate that Hall and Sanders engaged in during 2001 and 2002. Though they were aware it would be published, the exchanges are personal, honest, at times betraying frustration, and even irritation. But the result is a refreshing, readable, enlightening, popular-level theological discussion.
This book is my favorite and has been the most helpful for sorting out my own views.
What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge
By Millard Erickson
The final book is one person’s attempt to approach open theology sympathetically from a classic commitment. Erickson is one of the most respected evangelical theologians of this era. While he does not resolve all the issues, he does look for middle ground between the two positions in a gentle manner that is heartening.
William R. Baker is professor of New Testament at Cincinnati (Ohio) Bible Seminary, the graduate division of Cincinnati Christian University.