I am not a theologian. I am simply a Christian whose highest degree is an MS in physical education, hardly a qualification that will get me into the theology department in any school. I have a hard time dealing with lofty theological constructs, and really need to focus when I listen to lectures that are very heady. But I can muddle through them if I really try. And so I did last Thursday night, April 30. The occasion was a lecture at Eastern Nazarene College by one of the major proponents of Open Theism, Dr. Thomas Oord of Northwest Nazarene University. I had the pleasure of meeting him that night, and we chatted for a few minutes. No debate, just a few pleasantries, and he already knows my position on some of his views. I drove up to hear him, because most of the time I am reading up on someone’s views, but I rarely get the chance to hear them live, on meet them in person.
Dr. Oord’s lecture was concerning “Creation and Providence in A World of Good and Evil”. At the beginning of the lecture, he stated that he believed that evolution was compatible with Christianity. Red flag already. That is a troubling statement, and yet it is something being taught by some Nazarene university professors. Evolution contradicts the Biblical, historical account of the creation, and either one is false, or the other. I choose to believe the Bible. Dr. Oord also admits he is not a biblical inerrantist (that the Bible is without error), and that is a non-starter with me that I have had with emergent thinkers. I cannot have a “conversation” with people who support the emergent church movement when they cannot start from the premise that the Bible is without error. (We are talking about the original manuscripts). Unless I am mistaken, Dr. Oord is a pretty strong supporter of the emergent church movement.
During question and answers, I made sure everyone knew that I was clearly a Biblical inerrantist. Then I pointed out to Dr. Oord how Romans 5:12 helps to answer the question of why there is evil and death in the world. The scripture says:
- Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Romans 5:12-14
I cannot remember the exact answer Dr. Oord gave, but at the end of it, he said something that essentially pointed out that we disagreed on this. He said also, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” I failed to followup with another question for clarification, but it was later I realized that Dr. Oord probably does not even believe Adam and Eve existed, since he believes that evolution is compatible with Christianity. If so, there was no Adam and Eve! Believing in evolution destroys the biblical account, as well as many others. So the two cannot be compatible. You can believe evolution, or believe the Bible account of creation, and believe what Romans 5 says, that sin and death came through Adam, NOT evolution.
So let me make this clear as to where I stand on the theology of open theism. It is a denial, however subtle, of the total sovereignty of God. Nothing more, nothing less.
To think that God may not only know the whole future, as they believe, but that He is susceptible to making mistakes and learning from them, is at best a grossly mistaken error, and at worst, a heretical teaching. So my concern is this: why is Dr. Oord, who seems to be a very nice guy, being asked to speak at Eastern Nazarene College?
To answer the question of why is he speaking at ENC, you need not look any further than ENC for the answer. In 2007, an Open Theology and Science Conference was held at Eastern Nazarene College in June 2007.
As a followup, last April of 2008, ENC had a registration page for an Open Theism and Science Conference at Azuza Pacific University. On their “What Is?” page, this is how they defined Open Theology:
Open Theology Affirms That
- 1) God and creatures enjoy mutually-influencing relations,
2) the future is open and God does not fully know or settle it, and
3) love is uniquely exemplified by God and is the human ethical imperative
I am particularly troubled by #2. “God does not fully know the future?” The others will need further explanation as to what they may mean fully.
Keynote speakers at that conference included Dr. Gregory Boyd, a leading proponent of Open Theism. Also scheduled to speak were Dr. Oord himself, Dean Blevins of Nazarene Theological Seminary, Michael Lodahl, whose writings I had to refute in a “conversation” with a pastor who might himself be an Open Theist; and Clark Pinnock, another highly acclaimed Open Theist. Finally, one of the directors of the conference is Dr. Karl Giberson, professor of science and religion at ENC, whose books include Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.
So the question above seems to have been answered. It seems that at least some administrators at ENC have no problem inviting Open Theists to speak at their campus, and have no problem advertising conferences which openly promote Open Theism. It would probably be logical to assume that Northwest Nazarene University also has no problem with having a full time professor who teaches this theology. One of the answers I could not get from attending on Thursday night was, why do the powers that be at ENC invite these speakers to their campus, unless they believe the same theology? If so, that is again very troubling. My oldest son is only seven, but if he was close to college age, I would be asking questions as to what theological beliefs are being taught at any university he might attend. I would want my child to attend a Christian school that is firmly planted on solid Biblical ground. I would certainly never send him to any school which promotes emergent theology, contemplative spirituality practices, or which challenges the authority of the scriptures.
If you have a child soon to be considering going to ENC, or a child who is there now, you may want to give a call or a visit to the theology department at ENC and ask some questions. Perhaps even write a letter to the President of the College, Dr. Corlis McGee, to see where she stands on this issue. It is an important enough issue to ask questions and get answers.
If you are comfortable with the idea that God may not know everything, and that God also is susceptible to making mistakes, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you are concerned, then one question is this: how many “young skulls full of mush”, as a talk show host affectionately describes young, impressionable youth, will be deceived into believing this very erroneous belief, and I believe, a heretical view of God.
For one of the many refutations of this heretical view, see the article Does The Bible Affirm Open Theism by John M. Frame
For extensive resources on this topic, go to the monergism.com website for a list of links to various articles.