Saturday, August 13, 2011

The acceptable heresy

A couple of months ago I had a theological sparring session with a fellow young Anglican over the issue of Open Theism. He had written a post on his blog in which he referred to one of Open Theism's chief advocates, Greg Boyd, as "orthodox." I challenged him on this but was somehow not surprised that there was no retreat on his part from his claim that Open Theism can somehow fit into Christian orthodoxy. It also surprises me to see this heresy raising it's ugly head in "evangelical" Anglicanism, a movement that so many have joined out of a deep respect for the tradition and thought of great men and women of God throughout the history of Christ's holy Church. But there is no precedent for the acceptance of Open Theism in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformed or any other major strain of Christian thought throughout the history of the Church. For all of their faults none of those groups claiming to be the "true church" have ever sought to deprecate their concept of God by denying His omniscience. In the quote below, St. Augustine gives a strong refutation of that which has become, in many circles, an acceptable "orthodox" heresy.
For He does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future, indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence. Neither does He see in one fashion by the eye, in another by the mind, for He is not composed of mind and body; nor does His present knowledge differ from that which it ever was or shall be, for those variations of time, past, present, and future, though they alter our knowledge, do not affect His, "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Neither is there any growth from thought to thought in the conceptions of Him in whose spiritual vision all things which He knows are at once embraced. For as without any movement that time can measure, He Himself moves all temporal things, so He knows all times with a knowledge that time cannot measure. And therefore He saw that what He had made was good, when He saw that it was good to make it. And when He saw it made, He had not on that account a twofold nor any way increased knowledge of it; as if He had less knowledge before He made what He saw. For certainly He would not be the perfect worker He is, unless His knowledge were so perfect as to receive no addition from His finished works.
- St. Augustine, City of God


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I must not have a very good understanding of Open Theism. The way I learned of this concept is that it acknowledges God as present and involved rather than distant and unconcerned. An all-wise Father who hears and answers prayer (although not always as we would choose) rather than merely an idol to be worshiped. There must be another facet to this philosophy which I am ignorant of. Maybe you can shed some light on this for me.

I hope you are having a good week.


Matt said...

Hey S.P.,
I don't think any classical theist, like Augustine, who is a Christian would deny that God is present and involved. The only people I can imagine affirming such a thing would probably be deists. I think the "your understanding of God is distant and unconcerned" is usually more of a straw-man made by people like Open Theists to mischaracterize classical theists.

There are many facets of classical theism which I believe in and which I believe Scripture teaches, but as far as this quote goes and concerning what you brought up in your comment I would have to say that classical theism simply asserts that God is omniscient, He is all-knowing and does not gain new knowledge. He transcends time so He is not surprised by any decision of man or development in history. While God transcends time and is all-knowing He is present with us and relates to us in time.

Alright.... tired after a very long day on the CCU. Thanks for the comment!