Introduction and Thesis
Perhaps the most common description of God that Christians have given throughout the history of the Church is “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). No other attribute of God stirs up the emotions and sentiments like love. Though many object to more stern descriptions of God, no one is uncomfortable with a God who possesses perfect love for people. One theologian has said that love is the last characteristic of God that the world (and even the Church) really believes.1 The love of God is such a powerful truth that many Christians, theologians, and philosophers labor to mold an image of the biblical God into one in which love is the most important attribute. Evangelical Arminianism takes this position, and the recent movement known as “open theism” or “free-will theism” accepts this premise in building its unorthodox theology. Open theist David Basinger summarizes the “first principles” of how God’s love interacts with the world.
1. God not only created this world ex nihilo but can (and at times does) intervene unilaterally in earthly affairs.
2. God chose to create us with incompatibilistic (libertarian) freedom – freedom over which he cannot exercise total control.
3. God so values freedom – the moral integrity of free creatures and a world in which such integrity is possible – that he does not normally override such freedom, even if he sees that it is producing undesirable results.
4. God always desires our highest good, both individually and corporately, and thus is affected by what happens in our lives.
5. God does not possess exhaustive knowledge of exactly how we will utilize our freedom, although he may well at times be able to predict with great accuracy the choices we will freely make.2
In particular, point four listed above addresses God’s love in the phrase “God always desires our highest good, both individually and corporately.” Open theism’s driving two-sided presupposition is that God has given to the human race libertarian freedom, and that God so values this human freedom that he chooses not to interfere with it because that is the most loving thing to do. Richard Rice elaborates on open theism’s view of God’s love.
It [the open view] expresses two basic convictions: love is the most important quality we attribute to God, and love is more than care and commitment; it involves being sensitive and responsive as well.3
The crucial importance of love requires us to revise a great deal of conventional thought about God. According to standard definitions, “gods” are beings who surpass humans in power and intelligence, and the Christian concept of God is one that includes love in its list of attributes. Such an account is misleading, however. According to the Bible, God is not a center of infinite power who happens to be loving, he is love above all else. Consequently, when we enumerate God’s qualities, we must not only include love; to be faithful to the Bible we must put love at the head of the list. In the thinking of many Christians, however, even this fails to capture the biblical emphasis. As they interpret the Bible, love is not only more important than all of God’s other attributes, it is more fundamental as well. Love is the essence of the divine reality, the basic source from which all [emphasis original] of God’s attributes arise.4
This foundational principle is a fatal flaw of open theism. The contention that love is God’s controlling attribute effectively negates his other attributes, thus eliminating them from his character. Christians who desire to worship God in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:23-24) should be wary of a theological system that portrays the God of the Bible as something less than he reveals to us.
(Continue reading here.)