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The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence Paperback – June 25, 2007
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"[The God Who Risks is] a major contribution to the dialogue between biblical and philosophical theology. John Sanders argues persuasively for belief in the God who risks and shows in detail that this view--in contrast to belief in the no-risk God--is consonant with the biblical tradition, conceptually coherent and able to account for the Christian life as a life of personal fellowship with God." (VINCENT BRÜMMER, emeritus professor in philosophy of religion, University of Utrecht)
About the Author
John Sanders (Th.D., University of South Africa) is professor of religion at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. He has edited and written several books, including No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Three of his previous book projects have received a Christianity Today Book Award.
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After discussing several stories in the gospels, he observes, "The faith of the community seems to have a role in shaping what God actually decides to do." (Pg. 97) He asserts that denying exhaustive divine sovererignty and asserting indeterministic freedom for humans means that "God remains a risk taker", and that "the outcome of the world was not guaranteed prior to God's decision to create this world." (Pg. 206)
He suggests that while he believes that the Incarnation was always planned, human sin threw up a barrier, and "God's planned incarnation had to be adapted in order to overcome it." (Pg. 103) Later, he adds that the promises of God should be understood as "part of the divine project rather than some eternal blueprint, a project in which God has not scripted the way everything in human history will go. God has a goal, but the routes remain open." (Pg. 127)
He argues that "given God's track record, we have reason to trust him, confident in his wisdom." (Pg. 183) He rejects the charge that this position results in a finite God, as "a distinction must be drawn between a self-restricting (or self-limiting) God and a finite God." (Pg. 227) He admits that unless one affirms universalism or double predestination, "it must be concluded that God's project ends in failure for some." (Pg. 230)
Open theology is a highly controversial topic in evangelical circles; but regardless of which side of the debate one is on, this book is an important statement which deserves careful study.
The Sanders book describes open theism and concepts important to it like dynamic omniscience and contrasts it and its implications with those of more traditional theological models. This book is written in a Christian context, but it might be applicable more broadly.
For readers unfamiliar with the general idea of open theism, it is basically one where God has chosen NOT to determine everything. God is seen as desiring a truly interactive relationship with his creation (especially us) and is responsive to things that happen in creation not caused by God. For example, open theism allows for God to change his mind based on requests made by people. This seems to be completely counter to Augustine, Aquinas and Calvin, who appeared to view God as immutable to an extreme with the implication being that humans are actually puppets. In my opinion, the God Jesus described was certainly more of the open theists than that of Calvin and the like.
Open theists allow for God to have some broad plan for the creation and individual people, and he can take action to guide things in that direction, but the important thing is that he (at least usually) will not force the issue. The implications of this make for a more hopeful existence than the alternative.
There is actually quite a lot more to this, at least as to implications - those involving the problem of evil being some of the most interesting. (I would argue that even quantum mechanics and its probabilistic picture of the physical universe could be another of these implications, but the author did not seem to mention this one in particular.) The author takes readers carefully through a series of arguments to show basic implications and how open theism makes good sense and is even well based on very old tradition and the Bible itself. I thought that these arguments also made the alternatives look illogical, but the author tried to be respectful and didn't beat on that too much.
Overall, I liked the book. I gave it 4 instead of five stars because(1) the author seemed to be a little inconsistent in terminology now and then, (2) the notes should have been footnotes, not endnotes and (3) the text should have been edited a little more to hone the language/argument and to cut the length down 10 to 20%, as it was a little long for what it had to say. Don't take this the wrong way - the book is still well worth reading in my opinion.
In this book the reader learns that much of the traditional Christian theology of the foreknowledge of God grows out of an overlay of Greek philosophy on Scripture. The traditional theology, when you take the "clean t-shirt" off of it, ultimately and necessarily leads to a fatalistic view of life. This thoroughly Scripture based theology of God's foreknowledge introduces the reader to a truly intelligent and thoughtful interaction with God through prayer that is nonsensical under the traditional, Greek influenced, theology.