I was just reading some Amazon.com reviews of Greg Boyd’s book God of the Possible: An Introduction to the Open View of God. It’s a perspective with which I happen to agree, so please note my bias from the outset. What I found was an expected mixture of positive and negative responses, but what stood out to me was the harshness and the “end-of-the-Christian-faith” mentality of the negative respondees.
And it made me a bit inquisitive, and not a little frustrated, by those who profess to defend “orthodox” Christianity and hold a “high and lofty” view of God and Scripture, yet seem so scared for the Church and the faith simply because someone’s theological perspectives differ from their own and from much of tradition. I must confess that I simply don’t understand the sensationalism. And I must say that the argument of “unsound exegesis” certainly rings hollow to me when the responses simply proof text other passages–which, by the way, there are clearly texts throughout Scripture that support different perspectives, and in my view open theism can account for those passages that affirm determinism of certain events and those which affirm openness and possibility–essentially doing exactly what they are trying to accuse Boyd of doing. Apparently the standards change when it’s your perspective you’re defending. But I digress.
Moreover, given that I know more about how those with Calvinistic leanings have responded–simply do an amazon search for “open theism” and you’ll get just as many books responding to the “diminished God of open theism”–I’m rather intrigued. Calvinists believe that God’s glory is somehow lessened by this perspective–and, I assume, any perspective that is not in keeping with their own (cf. Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory)–yet they avow that God causes or renders certain everything that ever happens in the world. I’m speaking broadly, and certainly various expressions of Calvinism are much more nuanced, but however this perspective may be formulated, this is ultimately the end sum of their thought. So, if God is the cause (directly or indirectly) of all that happens, and it is all for his glory, how can the view of open theism lessen or diminish God’s glory? Indeed, didn’t God cause it to happen to enhance his glory? So, what is all the fuss about? If you’re going to be a consistent Calvinist I have difficulty following the logic.
Finally, I continue to struggle with the whole notion of “heresy” in the first place. It’s certainly thrown around a lot, and we like to decry people as heretical. Yet the reality is that most of the “heretics” of the Christian faith–perhaps, any faith, I haven’t done the research to say for sure–were rather devote believers trying to formulate their faith in a more intelligible and biblically faithul manner (based on their reading and interpretation).
I strongly disagree with the perspectives set forth by Calvinists–to the point that their arguments not only frustrate me but make me a bit angry at times. Yet I love them as fellow believers and wouldn’t call them “heretics.” I can only assume that those who like to toss that phrase around do so for sensational purposes, so that they can take the “high ground,” be seen as the only legitimate perspective, and denigrate and demeen anyone who disagrees with them. To me, calling someone a heretic–especially given how the church leadership treated heretics in the past [let’s see, banishment, ostricism, various forms of persecution (physical, social, mental, et al), execution–oh, and some of whom we would regard as “heroes of the faith” now, Wycliff, Tyndale, Luther to name a few] I would think people would decide to be a bit more cautious in tossing that term around so as to “defend the faith.”
As I see it, to label someone a “heretic” because they think differently than you do (i.e. they read and interpret certain biblical texts different than you do) seems to assume that you have all the answers, that no further thinking is necessary, and anyone who disagrees is somehow less of a Christian because of it. After all, isn’t the call simply to follow Jesus? Isn’t that what it means to be a Christ follower? to be a disciple? Isn’t it about living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loved? Isn’t it about mimicking and imitating him in everything that we do? Where did this idea come in that because you hold a certain theological perspective that you are somehow less of or no longer a Christian? Why does being an open theist or even a universalist for that matter make some Christian theologians ostracize and demeen you because you disagree with them?
I must confess that I simply don’t understand it, since the call is not first and foremost to have all of the “proper,” “acceptable,” and “orthodox” theology, but to follow Jesus as best you know how, living according to the ethics of the Kingdom of God. That, and that alone, is what it means to be a Christian. Not that I believe this or that theology, but that I believe in and follow Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord. I think we all better be a little more careful about labeling people “heretics” because it may be that we are the one’s whose views are a bit distorted since in placing pejorative labels on others we are not acting out of love and not putting others above ourselves, but in fact doing the exact opposite.
Just some thoughts on a Saturday evening.