Tuesday, 20 November 2001

Evangelical Theological Society rejects 'open theism,' affirms God's foreknowledge

by Russell D. Moore
Baptist Press, 20 Nov 2001

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)--After three days of heated debate, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) voted Nov. 16 overwhelmingly to affirm what almost every Christian in the history of the church has always believed -- that God knows everything, including the future decisions of his creatures.

The organization, a professional society of biblical scholars and theologians who affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, brought the issue to the floor after a group of ETS charter members charged that the "openness of God" view being articulated by some society members is outside the boundaries of evangelical conviction.

The non-binding resolution stated that the society believes "the Bible clearly teaches that God has complete, accurate and infallible knowledge of all events past, present and future including all future decisions and actions of free moral agents." The resolution passed on a vote of 253 in favor to 66 opposed with 41 abstentions after a debate that lasted until well after midnight the night before.

The resolution takes issue with the concept of "open theism" held by evangelical scholars such as Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd and John Sanders. God cannot know what will happen in the future, these scholars argue, since future human decisions have not yet been made and thus do not exist to be known. Sanders, a professor of religion at Huntington College in Indiana, presented the open theist case before the society, arguing that an attempt to rule the idea out of bounds could result in an evangelical "Taliban," enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy within the society.

Sanders' view was opposed by a competing presentation by Bruce Ware, associate dean and professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Ware pleaded with ETS members to recognize that the denial of God's complete knowledge is a dangerous doctrine that will damage the churches. Ware pointed to a host of Scriptures in which God declares himself to know the future, including passages in which God contrasts his knowledge of the future with the idols that have no such knowledge of future events.

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Other related articles
Closing the door on open theists? (CT, 1 Jan 2003)
ETS executive committee issues split decision on open theists (Baptist Press, 31 Oct 2003)
Why I resigned from the ETS - Norman Geisler (20 Nov 2003)
Evangelical Theological Society adopts inerrancy statement (Baptist Press, 20 Nov 2006)

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