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Openness theology is being hotly debated in evangelical churches and theological societies. Very often, the discussions center on the word freedom. If God has granted human beings genuine freedom, openness theologians argue, the future must be genuinely open. God, they conclude, must restrict his own knowledge and simply refuse to know in advance everything we're going to do. Therefore God puts himself in the position of having to react to history, "repenting" of previous vows, changing his mind about what he is going to do.

In such discussions, human freedom is spoken of as if it were genuine and real, and God's freedom is spoken of as if it were limited. This is an unusual assumption in the history of Christian theology, and it would be well for us to note it. Space limitations preclude countering these arguments fully. Here, a simple restating of traditional Christian notions of freedom will have to do.

Not-so-Free at Last


To begin with, it is important to realize that human freedom is actually a very limited freedom. This might not be apparent, for it seems we make choices and do things we want to do. Behind this freedom, however, there stand many factors that influence and restrict our choices.

For example, have we not been launched into the world without anyone consulting us? Yes, our parents made a choice, but we ourselves did not. We were never free to decide that we would enter this world. Our birth depended upon some extraneous activity.

Again, what kind of a world was it into which we were launched? Did we have any say regarding it? Not at all. We might have preferred some very different world, such as a nonmaterial world, a world of pure mind or spirit.

But we had no choice. We are forced to live a life that is, in ...

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In the Magazine

February 4, 2002

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