Ariminius and Open Theism

Ever since the emergence of open theism on the evangelical scene in the 1990s, there have been several attempts to saddle Arminianism with the theological interests of open theism. On the one hand, Reformed theologians find it to their advantage to identify Arminianism and open theism, if for no other reason than the slippery slope argument has a concrete example. Open theists, on the other hand, seek some historical legitimacy through identification with Arminianism if not also some kind of theological cover. As a result, whether one is seeking to delegitimize open theism (as Reformed theologians intend) or to legitimize it (as open theists intend), it is to the mutual benefit of Reformed theology and open theism to classify Arminianism and open theism together.

Arminius affirms with Reformed theology a “meticulous providence” where God has such sovereignty over evil such that no evil act is autonomous and uncircumscribed by God’s intent for good. God is so sovereign that God concurs with the act itself such that its effect has specific meaning and significance. This is a critical difference between classic Arminianism and open theism.

On the other hand, classic Arminianism and open thesim share a common conviction that human freedom is, in some sense, libertarian rather than compatibilist. God permits sin; God is not the primary cause of sin. In the permission of sin, according to Arminius, God does not concur in the efficacy of the act though God does concur in the ontology and capacity of the act. Here open theists and classic Arminians stand together.

Historically, there are at least three positions in this discussion with Classic Arminianism holding the “middle ground.” (1) The Sovereignty of the Divine Decrees where God has decreed from eternity what will happen within human history (Reformed scholasticism); (2) The Sovereignty of Divine Engagement where God is active, or concurs, in every event within human history such that every event has divine purpose and meaning though without divine decrees determining what will happen within human history (classic Arminianism); and (3) The Sovereignty of the Divine Project where God, for the sake of the divine project risks the effects and meaning of human history in such a way that it is beyond divine management for the greater good but does not endanger God’s ultimate goal or project (open theism).

These are some paragraphs taken from my article published last year as “Classical Arminianism and Open Theism: A Substantial Difference in Their Theologies of Providence,” Trinity Journal 33ns (2012) 3-18. The article is now available for reading through the above link.

One Response to “Ariminius and Open Theism”

  1.   rich constant Says:

    Thanks John Mark
    really did enjoy this…
    i would tend to leverage open theism,
    i would argue not from sin and evil.
    but from life death then reconciliation of the cosmos and the man because of Gods Good.
    and “all that believe faithfully” are incorporated into that ” Life giving Spirit”praise god through his son who overcame and has given us the faithful words of the Spirit, that god is the righous and faithful father whose power brought this creation to end and be reborn in the image of fulfilled prophecy.

    “Classical Arminianism and Open Theism:
    …This is my pastoral point.
    Tragic experiences are neither gratuitous nor
    meaningless. They have significance. Meticulous providence affirms that there is a specific divine intent in every experience whether tragic or blessed. Rather than random events, our experiences participate in a specific divine teleology.
    This is the pastoral value of cassical
    Arminianism that open theism does not offer.
    Our lives are partly a tapestry of our own making
    but every thread has divine significance
    even the dark ones.

    Of course, more needs to be said than this within a theodicy, but that is not my purpose in
    this essay. Christology and eschatology have much to say about how this point would function within
    a broader theodicy to the extent that we can even talk about



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