Saturday, April 12, 2008

Open Theism and Science Conference: Greg Boyd

This week the Open Theism and Science conference funded by The Templeton Foundation is at APU. Scholars and thinkers including Dr. Greg Boyd, Dr. T. Scott Daniels, Dr. Clark Pinnock, and Dr. Francis Collins who is widely regarded as one of the best Christian apologists of today, are all here giving presentations on Open Theism and Science. If you are interested in Open Theism, this might be interesting to you (even though it's short notice). If you have no idea what Open Theism is, read The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock & friends.

Open Theism is, overall, something I find to be helpful for those who have broadly accepted a very Western Classical Theism. For example, if your view of God seems to keep him from working genuinely within history and from authentically responding to prayer, Open Theism might offer a freeing alternative perspective, and will at least open the door to all sorts of other Biblical possibilities (that's what it did for me). I have my own critiques and criticisms to the view which I will not discuss here, but I guess I can say I think it's worth looking at. I truly respect the scholars who represent this view and I find, for example, Pinnock to be quite a big help (especially his chapter in Four Views on Hell).

This morning I attended Dr. Greg Boyd's presentation on Natural Evil and Satan.

Boyd basically argued that there is very Biblical reason not to attribute everything we see happening in the world to Yahweh. The Biblical tradition never seems to place God as the only one interacting with the natural realm. In Scripture the actions of God are faced by opposition to other forces. There is conflict happening between "demonic" or chaotic forces and God's creative actions. The Bible is full of allusions to God defeating chaos, however figurative you take them to be, there is discussion of God defeating Rahob the serpent, or taming the chaotic Tehom as acts of creation (this may give us an interpretive lens through which to see tohu vabohu in Genesis 1)... these references have to mean something if we take Scripture seriously. Boyd says that these discussions allow us to reasonably attribute natural evil to Satan or some other chaotic forces which are working against God's creative action. For example, we do not have to see illness as something of God's mysterious will which is there to teach us something (though we can still attribute it to God when he bring good from evil). We can see tsunamis and hurricanes as cosmic acts of chaotic entities in opposition to God's creative action. And, though victory is obviously not fully implemented, these evil chaotic forces have already been defeated through the resurrection.

I found Boyd's discussion to be interesting and easy to agree with (though I felt that some of it was presumptuous) but not as "new" or controversial as I was expecting. I didn't feel like I was hearing anything that would truly bother most serious scholars. Most scholars would at least be familiar with a view like this.

He kept recommending his book: God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict
I talked with him afterward, he really is a nice guy. Read all his books.

4 comments:

nate said...

I blogged about boyd not too long ago. I would have jumped at your opportunity, although my favorite (to listen too, that is) of the names you mentioned is Pinnock. His views on hell are fascinating. What amazes me is the way he crafts his argument and mangages to use scripture to defend his position.

I read excerpts from the work you mention, in which Boyd rationalizes the violent God of the Old Testament with the loving peaceful God of the New. I found it highly pragmatic and presupposition driven. None the less, I like boyd.

WES ELLIS said...

Nate,
Yeah, Boyd was good. He didn't say anything about contrasting New and Old Testament views of God. He echoed a lot of what I've been thinking about (God defeating chaos/tehom etc.) but in a different contextual framework. I liked him.

As for Pinnock, I only heard a little bit of him. All I got to hear was a not-so-informative answer to a question in a panel discussion today. I, like you, was most excited for Pinnock but unfortunately he apparently doesn't shine as well verbally as in writing. I find his view on hell pretty helpful too, more helpful than Open Theism. I used him a lot in a paper I wrote on hell a couple of semesters ago. I still appeal to him every once in a while in that discussion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming to the conference, Wes. I hope you found the material stimulating...

Thomas Jay Oord

WES ELLIS said...

Thomas,
I did enjoyed it quite a lot. Thanks for commenting. When will the youtube videos from the panel discussion be up?
-Wes