My first interaction with Dr. Oord was him actually emailing me back in 2017, when I had a small blogspot blog. I still to this day don’t know how he came across it, maybe someone sent it to him or maybe he was browsing Facebook and saw it shared in one of the groups he was in. Regardless, he sent me an email saying he liked one of my posts.
The post was on how Open Theism is more consistent of a position than Arminianism. The Tl;dr version of that post is, Arminians are subject to their own objections unless they embrace Open Theism. This position is not new, I adopted this position from James White.
Recently, Dr. Oord emailed me to check up on how I was doing and offered to send me a free copy of his book. Part of me thinks he’s trying to convert me, I enjoy the challenge. I told him I’d review it if he sent me it and he did.
Enough backstory, let’s talk about the book.
I want to first talk about what I liked before I get into the parts I didn’t like or had questions about.
Firstly, I enjoyed that Dr. Oord seemingly strives very hard to be thorough and consistent with his beliefs, he isn’t afraid to affirm things classical theists would cringe at.
Throughout the book, you can tell Dr. Oord really cares about people and wants theology to be something comforting rather than something that is often used to condemn.
I can agree with him here, I don’t want to condemn someone with my theology, rather, let God do the condemning, since he is in the position to do so. What I mean by that is that as a Calvinist, I’m not going around screaming “You’re not elect if you don’t believe in Calvinism!” or whatever else you might find from the more rabid sides of theology web.
Dr. Oord is a very engaging writer and his book kept my attention, I read his whole book in one sitting.
Now I want to move on to some parts that had me scrath my head. I welcome Dr. Oord or even other Open Theists to comment to see where maybe I’ve gone wrong or maybe I’m misinterpreting.
On Page 17 Dr. Oord writes:
“God can’t prevent abuse, tragedy and evil”
“A Loving God simply cannot do some things. Preventing evil is one of them.”
I am confused by these statements. The first statement has me wondering what Open Theists do with the examples in the Bible where God does stop evil actions. For example, God comes to King Abimelech in a dream and says
“Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6 ESV)
The way the second sentence is worded makes me think that “loving” has something to do with whether God has exhaustive foreknowledge or not.
Dr. Oord argues that we can’t blame God for evil because God can’t stop evil. You don’t stop a bystander who couldn’t do anything about it, do you? However, it is hard for me to follow how God is a bystander to the actions of humans. Isn’t a parent responsible for the actions of their child until they become an adult themselves? Didn’t God create the person who did the evil action? Even if God doesn’t know the future, it would seem a bit naive to assume that God didn’t know the capabilities of his creation.
It’s fine to say God doesn’t deserve the blame, but I don’t think the reasoning presented in the book can escape that conclusion. Open Theism is still subject to the old epicurean objection.
Near the end of page 17 and into page 18 Dr. Oord makes an assumption that I cannot agree with. He talks about people who say “God allows evil actions” and says
“They think God permits the pointless pain he could single-handily prevent.”
“pointless pain” is an a priori assumption, one I don’t agree with. The Calvinist system for example, does not believe anything is pointless, everything has purpose.
“I think God always cares, and genuine evil doesn’t make things better overall”
That’s a fine opinion, but can you substantiate that philosophically or biblically? Doesn’t God use evil to make things better? Like in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph is sold into slavery and becomes second to command to Pharaoh?
I imagine in your view you say that God sees the evil and then works with the freedom of creatures to bring good out of evil. Yet, say an evil act occurs, like torture for a week. God knows about it by day one. Why doesn’t he stop it then? Doesn’t he love the person being tortured?
I don’t see how this is any better than just saying “free will” to the epicurean objection.
When the sinless Son of God was crucified, The book of Acts tells us
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
(Acts 4:27-28 ESV)
Dr. Oord and other Open Theists,
Was not the crucifixion of Jesus one of if not the most evil acts of all time?
Was not the resurrection and atonement one of the greatest acts of all time?
Did God plan the Crucifixion? Was does “plan” mean in Acts 4 and when did God make this plan? My bet is on “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
There are other questions I had about the book like when he talks about God and healing but in the interest of not writing a long wall of text or asking questions that don’t maintain one topic I will leave it there. Overall, I recommend Dr. Oord’s book to anyone, because it is a good defense of Open Theism, it’s thought provoking and it’s an honest attempt to get you to consider your beliefs.
(Dr. Oord says he likes the Shack(pg.37), I gave the Shack one star on Goodreads. That’s unrelated but I thought I should let everyone know.)