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God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism [Paperback]

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Pages   240
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.58" Height: 0.59"
Weight:   0.62 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2001
Publisher   Crossway Books/Good News
ISBN  1581342292  
EAN  9781581342291  

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What if God doesn't know everything about the future? What if, as open theists claim, God can only rely on His best guess about tomorrow - just as we do? This book carefully summarizes and critiques this dangerous doctrine from a thoroughly biblical perspective, showing how open theism undermines God's glory and our trust in Him.

Publishers Description

Christians throughout history have been strengthened by their confidence that God knows everything about the future. But consider this: What if it simply is not true? What if God can only rely on His best guess about tomorrow--just as you and I do? Would it not affect your trust in Him, your confidence in facing the future, your worship, and your motivation to leave everything in His hands? And yet this is the consequence that has to be faced if you trust what a number of leading voices in evangelicalism are proposing under the doctrine of open theism.

In its redefinition of the nature of divine providence, open theism adjusts the entire picture of God's sovereignty and involvement in our lives. Bruce Ware carefully summarizes and critiques this dangerous doctrine from a thoroughly biblical perspective, providing an excellent treatment of both the classical and openness views. He explores their implications and faithfully pinpoints the subtle ways that open theism undermines our trust in God and lessens His glory in our lives.

Open theism offers a God who, like us, does not know the future. Its sponsors see this humanizing of God as logical and devotional gain. Bruce Ware sees it as a way of misreading Scripture and impoverishing the life of faith, and he makes a compelling case for his view. I heartily commend this thorough and insightful book. --J.I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College

Open theism, which denies that God can foreknow free human choices, dishonors God, distorts Scripture, damages faith, and would, it left unchecked, destroy churches and lives. Its errors are not peripheral but central. Therefore, I thank God for Bruce Ware's loving, informed, penetrating, devastating critique of this profoundly injurious teaching. I pray that God would use this book to sharpen the discernment of leaders and prepare the people of God to recognize toxic teaching when they taste it. O how precious is the truth of God's all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful care over our fragile lives. For your name's sake, O Lord, and for the good of the suffering church who rest in your all-knowing providence, prosper the message of this beautiful book and shorten the ruinous life of open theism. --John Piper, Senior Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis

Evangelical theology faces a crisis of unprecedented magnitude. The denial and redefinition of God's perfections will lead evangelical theology into disintegration and doctrinal catastrophe. The very identity and reality of the God of the Bible is at stake. The real question comes down to this--does God really know all things, past, present, and future? Or, is God often surprised like all the rest of us? The Bible reveals that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. Bruce Ware sets out the issues carefully in God's Lesser Glory. This book is a much-needed antidote to contemporary confusion, and it is a powerful testimony to the truth of God set forth in Scripture. I can only hope that Christians will read it and rejoice in the knowledge of the true and living God. --R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

At once businesslike and practical, Bruce Ware's restatement of classical Christianity in the face of contemporary challenges to it within evangelicalism is bold and bracing. Driven by the pastoral and practical importance of God's greatness, Ware's approach keeps his defense from bogging down in pedantic rhetoric. This book clearly demonstrates that the historic Christian view, against centuries of antecedents to "open theism," has been favored for so long for one reason: It is so evidently biblical. --Michael Horton, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary in California

Not even God knows whether you will decide to buy this book or read it, at least according to "open theism." But Bruce Ware shows that this position, which is seeping into evangelical churches, is contrary to Scripture, intentionally contradictory, and destructive to our Christian lives. This is a clear, fair, well-reasoned, and Bible-centered critique of a doctrinal error so far-reaching that it ultimately portrays a different God than the God of the Bible. --Wayne Grudem, Chairman, Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

The movement known as open theism claims to be a more biblical and more practical alternative to the traditional view. Bruce Ware systematically refutes both of these claims, showing that the traditional view better handles the biblical evidence and the issues of Christian living while better preserving the glory of God. His examination of the biblical material is especially strong. --Millard J. Erickson, Distinguished Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

While I (basically a traditional Arminian) do not agree with all of Ware's answers, I applaud his keen discernment of the questions and issues raised by openness theology. He clearly sets forth the key differences between this view and traditional views of God, both Arminian and Calvinist; and he perceptively identifies its major weaknesses. I benefited especially from Ware's treatment of the biblical teaching on God's foreknowledge. --Jack W. Cottrell, Professor of Theology, Cincinnati Bible Seminary

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Bruce A. Ware (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and has authored God's Lesser Glory, God's Greater Glory, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A solid refutation of the open theism by a Reformed theologian  Dec 9, 2008
When attempting to refute a disagreeable position, many seek to do so at the expense of offering a positive response. This leaves many with a similar attitude that Peter had when challenged by the Lord Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" (John 6:68) Bruce Ware, in his book, "God's Lesser Glory," does no such thing. Not only does he offer a solid refutation of the open theist position; he explains why the classical theism position is better.

Many Christians are unaware of the open theist position and how it is seeping into the very fabric of what we call, "conservative evangelicalism." They find it rather odd to hear things like, "God isn't sovereign," or, "God isn't in control." Sure, open theists might use such phraseology, but mean something completely different. The problem is, many Christians have already come to embrace a form of libertarian freedom that seeks to "get God off the hook" when it comes to theodicy (i.e., the "problem" of evil). They reason that because God is all-loving, He cannot be "responsible" for evil. Thus, God "allows" evil, but doesn't "cause" it. The only thing that the Christian can do without being an open theist is to still affirm God's exhaustive knowledge of future events. This keeps God in the realm of being in control. As long as God knows the future (though He didn't actually decree it), we can still attribute "control" to Him since He knows the outcome and knows what's best for His children.

However slippery this slope may be for the Arminian who still affirms God's exhaustive knowledge of future events, Bruce Ware argues in such a way (for the most part) that the Arminian will be able to refute the open theist position. But why should the follower of Jesus Christ be concerned with such an argument? Because the manner in which we conduct our Christian lives are at stake. If God does not know the future, does this not have the most profound implications on how you live your life? As Bruce Ware points out, the future becomes a guessing game that depends solely on the free actions of men. God may desire and do the best he can to preserve the greatest good, but in the end we just can't know for sure what is best; not even God.

Throughout much of the book, Bruce Ware spends a great deal of time explaining the open view of God. I confess to never having read a book by an open theist, but Ware explains their position in such a way that it seems the open theist spends a lot of time explaining the benefits of their position. I have no reason to doubt that the author was accurate in his portrayal of the open view, so I can say that their position was explained in detail and well documented. The two proponents that Ware seemed to focus on the most was John Sanders and Gregory Boyd.

If anything can be said about this book, it would be that it is very "meaty." That is, most of the book was devoted to lengthy exegesis of the key passages; in particular, those which are used by the open proponents to defend their view. Ware's explanation of these texts couldn't have been better. Rather than divert from the texts with responses like, "This text might seem to support your position, but it can't mean that because of this text over here..." the author faces the text head on and offers sound exegesis.

One of these texts included Genesis 22:12. In this text, God says that he learns the state of Abraham's heart. If you are unaware of the open view, keep in mind that they believe that God doesn't actually know everything; he is in a constant state of learning. The author rightly points out the implications if the open position is correct. Ware argues, "First, if God must test Abraham to find out what is in his heart (recall that the text says, "for now I know that you fear God"), then it calls into question God's present knowledge of Abraham's inner spiritual, psychological, mental, and emotional state." (p. 67) Next, Ware points out the irony in whether or not God really needed this text to prove whether Abraham fears God. "That is, while it is significant that the openness interpretation implicitly denies God's present knowledge (the first point), even more telling here is the implicit denial of the specific content of this present knowledge, that is, knowledge that Abraham fears God." (p. 68) Thus, the author refutes the open position by their own standards.

After spending more than enough pages in refuting the open position through their key texts, the author goes into the exegesis of the texts which establish God's exhaustive knowledge of the future. For those of us who have read Pink's, "The sovereignty of God," and other standard works within Reformed theology, Ware was only stating the obvious. That is, it is difficult to imagine how one can read through Isaiah and miss the fact that God not only knows all things, but is in control of all things. Unfortunately, the open theist abandons the clear teaching of Scripture in favor of the freedom of man. This turns God into the divine reactor rather than the divine initiator.

The last section of Ware's book is perhaps what I appreciated most, for he offered the benefits of the classical theistic position in light of the weaknesses of the openness position. One of these benefits that I found to be noteworthy is that of prayer. For me, this is where the rubber meets the road in refuting the so-called "benefits" within open theism. Ware rightly summarizes the issue with, "Your will be done," rather than, "Your will be formed."

In conclusion, I cannot recommend Ware's book enough. Even if open theism is not on the rise in your area, you will find Ware's book to be a refreshing breath of fresh air as he establishes a sound case for God's sovereignty. If you are an Arminian, I would recommend this book to you as well, as you will see that the Reformed position offers the strongest refutation of the open view available.
Outstanding Book in Giving God Glory for His Sovereignty  Oct 8, 2008
Bruce Ware's book God's Lesser Glory is an outstanding work defending the classical belief in a God who has exhaustive knowledge of all things both possible and actual in the past, present, AND future. This is one of only a few book-length critiques that deal with open theism's proposal of a God of limited omniscience. Open theism has been attacking this vital doctrine of God's omniscience and Bruce Ware kindly, yet firmly, puts his exegetical skill to work in defense of God's complete foreknowledge.
The book is divided into five parts--three primary ones with an introduction and conclusion. In the introduction Ware addresses the "so what?" question of the reader by familiarizing his audience with the mounting controversy surrounding open theism examines. The introduction is appropriately titled, "Why You Should Be Concerned."
The second section and first major part, "What Does Open Theism Propose?" builds directly on the introduction by succinctly dealing with the development of open theism as a theological framework and as a departure from the classical Arminian position (chap. 2). Ware also deals with "The Perceived Benefits of Open Theism" (chap. 3) in Part One.
Part Two, "What's Wrong with Open Theism's View of God?" responds to Boyd's God of the Possible and Sanders' The God Who Risks (two chief proponents of open theism). In Chapter 4, "Assessing Open Theism's Denial of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge," Ware evaluates both the exegetical method of open theism and its application to key Scriptural passages often touted by open theists as support for their position. Chapter 5 outlines a "Scriptural Affirmation of Exhaustive Divine Foreknowledge" as Ware presents a careful discussion of select passages of Scripture, against which open theists cannot really argue effectively. Chapter 6 then addresses an often unnoticed problem with open theism: "The God Who Risks and the Assault on God's Wisdom."
Part Three exposes the challenging practical ramifications of open theism. Ware discusses how this position harms the Christian's prayer life (chap. 7), results in diminished confidence in God's guidance (chap. 8), and creates outright despair in the midst of suffering and pain (chap. 9). Finally, in his conclusion "God's Greater Glory and Our Everlasting Good," Ware restates the weaknesses of open theism and outlines the orthodox view of God's sovereignty.
The strength of Ware's book is its expository method. Ware doesn't build straw men to tear down. He seriously and honestly interacts with the writings of open theists like Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders, answering their arguments from texts which apparently support openness theology and also presenting the full gamut of biblical passages which a lot of open theists fail to mention (such as, Isaiah 41:21-29, 42:8-9, 43:8-13, 44:6-8, 44:24-28, 45:20-23, 46:8-11, 48:3-8, and 48:14-16). Just a brief perusal of those texts should reveal the many holes in open theism. Also questions of God's immutability and "repentance" are handled with care and answered well.
As well written as Bruce Ware's book is, there are a couple of areas where I believe that it could be improved, both of which deal with how exhaustive the book is. To me, among the most problematic ramifications of open theism is the reality that open theism, by definition, must acknowledge at the very minimum the possibility of biblical errancy and fallibility. In my view, one cannot consistently be an open theist as well as a believer in biblical inerrancy, since a great deal of the prophetic material written in the bible requires the exact kind of divine foreknowledge of the future that open theists say God does not possess. At the very least, open theism has to acknowledge that their view requires, for example, that the entire book of Revelation MIGHT prove to be wrong, since by their own teachings, the prophetic proclamations only represent God's best guesses of what might happen, rather than being part of a divine blueprint that is already in place. One other area that I think Ware could have been more comprehensive is how open theism requires a fundamental redefining of the substitutionary atonement of Christ's death on the cross. If God does not know the future that means that God could not know with absolute certainty that Christ's death would accomplish anything, since it is conceivable that nobody could have responded to it and believed. Neither of these issues is dealt with in much detail and I believe these issues represent monumental theological deficiencies in the openness view. Because of this, I believe, these issues should have been further explored in Bruce Ware's book.
Having said that, what Ware DOES cover in this book is outstanding and represents a very able and formidable refutation of open theism and its implications on the faith overall, as well as individual believers. He effectively shows that open theism is purely a human concoction, as well as open theism's internally inconsistent mess as a matter of scholarship. I am thankful for Ware's successful attempt to discredit the theological and philosophy claims of open theism as it defames the glory of God. Christians owe this servant of God a great debt of gratitude for putting the accent of God's glory back into His sovereignty.
Deinitely a solid defense of traditional theology  Jun 11, 2008
This is the second book I noticed on the subject of Open Theism. The previous one was by an author who was Calvinist, and claimed that the error of Open Theism was the natural result of Arminianism (i.e. anything short of five point Calvinism). While a Calvinist, Ware is much more balanced, and realizes that while you would never have an Open Theist who's a Calvinist, Open Theism is not a result of Arminian thinking in all or even most cases.

One thing this book helped teach is the difference between compatablist free will and libertarian free will. A libertarian free will person would say I can go to the cafeteria and have a choice between chicken parmesan, turkey and dressing, or liver and onions. A compatablist will say I do not have free will to get the liver and onions because I don't like liver and onions. Thus, taking this simplistic example a little further, God does not have to worry about protecting me from food poisoning if the liver and onions is contaminated because I would never eat it.

This book does a good job at showing the weaknesses of the open theism point of view. One reviewer seemed critical that the author assumes the classical view. My experience is that those who reject the classical view not because of evidence but out of preference, because they don't like the implications of the classical view.

This book is well outlined, and addresses that open theism not only had problems on the theological level but the practical levels of prayer, guidance, and suffering.
I was not convinced of his arguments  Jan 11, 2007
Ware quibbles with Pinnock, Boyd, Sanderson, and Hasker throughout. Ware's world is the classical view of God, with exception of his introduction of "relational mutability" of God. Essentially he says that God has exhaustive foreknowledge with a new twist. Even though God acted, created, and planned instantly one time trillions of years ago (the Super Big Bang), that when time rolls around to events in our lives, God steps into it takes special notice and gets in the fray emotionally. This makes no sense. It would appear that a God that has exhaustive foreknowledge could have no future. He couldn't plan. There are no such concepts as "plan", "look ahead", "tomorrow", or "the future" or a "now" to such a God. It seems to be his effort to try to soften the stoic, impassible God of Calvin and Augustine. Ware offers us the same classical portrayal of God as microscopically controlling the world and through direct or indirect cause bringing about every act in the human drama. This would include all rape, murder, wars, holocaust, or whatever. He concludes the last few pages by going back to the example Sanders used of the death of Sanders brother. Ware tells us the only way to view events like this is that God "took him." The answer to his death is, as Ware writes, "Yes, the God of all wisdom, goodness, and power has ordained to take these lives." It was all brought about by God personally for reasons we cannot know. This is tantamount to saying God loaded the boxcars personally of those going into Hitler's ovens, or placing select individuals in the WTC when the buildings collapsed. Or, that he takes every sparrow by divine decree. He advises us as we have been advised for centuries by "classical" theologians that all evil, even gratuitous evil, is designed and brought about by God. This thinking is in the same vein of R.C. Sproul, who points out, "not even one molecule" of the universe is moved without God specifically controlling it. All human thought, since it must precede human acts and our behavior, is controlled, motivated, and directed by God, for His "greater" purposes.

His explanations of verses used by open theists, starting with Abraham's example, are through the eye of the beholder. He introduces "relational mutability" which he brings into the Abraham story in Genesis 22. Ware says "he (God) does interact with his people in the experiences of their lives as they unfold in time." God seems to get into the movie he made trillions of years ago since it is now being shown in theaters. "God literally sees and experiences in this moment what he has known from all eternity." He argues against himself somewhat in this area as he feels open theists do in their choices of emphasis of scripture. He points out that these verses as a whole should be taken as anthropomorphic statements, but he stops and chooses God's statement of "for now I know that you fear God", as teaching us "in the experience of this action, I (God) am witnessing Abraham demonstrate dramatically and afresh that he fears me, and I find this both pleasing and acceptable in my sight." He takes what he says is anthropomorphic language describing what goes on and pulls a whole new thought allegedly of God from the exchange of God and Abraham. All of the many other verses he covers to debunk open theology could just as easily be emphasized as open theists do. I didn't come away from any of his explanations saying--"Now I know."

He ends by stating that what gets everyone's ire up (open theists) is that they can't give up the idea there is no "free will" in the universe. He views them and their model as "diminishing" God and how human vanity or pride is swelled. God can't be diminished. One's view or take or image which has been created within their belief system of thought, can be diminished.

It always amazes me that individuals (Ware is one of them) that feel that libertarian free will believers bring God "down" by believing in a world where human beings can choose, make choices, contrary to the will of God. He says in his opinion that is the main problem of "open" theists.

Free will or freedom to choose is the greatest responsibility any human being has on earth. We must make choices. I believe that it doesn't reduce God, bring him down to our level, or elevate us up to his level by his granting us free will or free choice before him. It does just the exact opposite. It makes God a far more powerful God, unthreatened by us - one willing to, for His higher purpose, allow His creation to spurn him, reject him, curse him, and vilify him. God lets his creatures say no to him. Hell is, as C.S. Lewis stated, "locked from the inside." That is a free choice, unconstrained by God, or anyone else. Phillip Yancey made a great comment in his most recent book--Prayer. He wrote that--"History is the story of God giving away power." George Eldon Ladd wrote in his Theology of the New Testament that "evil is the price God paid for human freedom."

I still embrace after reading it concepts of the "open" model, particularly human beings having free will to choose what we do in life and all its decisions, and that God is not microscopically ruling our world. God does have a future. He can plan. He has things which he can look forward to. He is not brain dead. He interacts with us in our time zone. Prayers do move him.
Some parts are good, but some are bad  Sep 25, 2006
I recently had to give a guest lecture on Open Theism for a theology course, and thought it would be wise to read some books about Open Theism before I did, to make sure all my information was accurate. I discovered one thing in my research: both the books for and against Open Theism are poor books. The books by Open Theists I find filled with poor arguments, but so are the books against Open Theism. I have yet to find a good book against Open Theism, and I doubt a good book supporting Open Theism can really be written. Why is this a poor book? For many reasons. First, Ware is simply not a good writer. I do not doubt that he is a good professor, but writer, no. Second, as someone who leans more toward Arminianism than Calvinism, I find many of Ware's arguments just as poor as those by Open Theists. In many places, Ware seems to be saying that Open Theism cannot be true because Calvinism is. While Calvinism seems to be slightly less Biblically inaccurate than Open Theism, even if I believed in Calvinism I would still not find Ware's argument against Open Theism especially convincing when he goes into defend-Calvinism mode. When you are writing a book against a certain position, supporting your own positions is something that you should do AFTER showing that theirs is inadequate, for then they will be looking for something else to turn to. If you go up to a non-Christian who is perfectly happy being a non-Christian, it is likely that you will not be able to convert them if you simply support your own position and never give them a reason to doubt their own. I am not saying that Ware does not give any good arguments against Open Theism, but rather that he should have spent more time arguing against Open Theism and less time arguing for Calvinism. If I wanted a book supporting Calvinism I could have found far better books than this.

That said, Ware does provide some good information about Open Theists, and he points out many sources that one can look into if you are interested in reading Open Theist literature (and he makes sure to take their statements out of context somewhat frequently as well).

In all, it's not a great book, but there aren't really many better ones out there (to the best of my knowledge), so I guess it's as good a place to start as any.

Overall grade: C

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