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Book Reviews, Open Theism, theology

Microview: “Searching for an Adequate God” edited by John Cobb Jr. and Clark Pinnock

sadg-cobbpinnockSearching for an Adequate God (how’s that for a provocative title?) is a dialogue between process theists and open theists (aka free will theists). Process theism is most basically the notion that God is fully involved in and impacted by temporal processes like the free actions of creatures, the changing of nature, etc. (for a good summary of process thought, see here). Open theism (aka “free will theism” in this volume) is essentially classical theism, but with the notion that the future is “open”–that is, that some aspects of the future are yet undetermined and unknown (in that they are unknowable, because there are no facts about these open aspects of the future to be known).

Given the major divergence between these positions, this book provides a fascinating dialogue and real insights into points of division between two radically different concepts of God. Intriguingly, the two positions also share many basic premises (as is emphasized by every author) such as an emphasis on human free will as a way to handle theodicy, the notion that God is temporal and impacted in some way by creation, and so on.  The essays herein revolve, therefore, around these dual notions–the radical differences between the groups and the shared insights they argue they provide for theology.

The essays by David Ray Griffin (process) and William Hasker (open), along with their rebuttals to each other, frame the debate in an extremely interesting fashion, as their essays truly show the great differences between the positions. In between, essays by the other contributors (and their responses to each other) offer frequently autobiographical reflections on the two positions.

Perhaps most enlightening is the way that both positions show their distance on various points from classical theism and Christianity. Each of the Process contributors (and David Ray Griffin in particular) blithely dismissed or redefined the Trinity as a tertiary (as Griffin described it) doctrine for Christianity. This astounding claim demonstrates how vast the chasm is between the process view and Christianity. The open position, particularly as represented by Hasker, is highly critical of views of providence which entail God being even a secondary cause of evil.

The Good

+Fascinating interaction between two radically different yet frequently similar non-standard theistic positions
+Solid lineup of major representatives on both sides of the debate
+Good format
+Interesting insight into two positions which challenge classical theism

The Bad

-Too frequently autobiographical rather than topical in the middle essays

Conclusion

The value of Searching for an Adequate God is found in its many areas of clarification and insight: distinctions between process thought and classical Christian thought, clarifications on the meaning and extent of open theism, areas of mutual engagement between these divergent views, and more. It is a wonderfully fascinating book, even if I as a reader am deeply critical of both positions. I found it quite excellent.

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Source

John B. Cobb, Jr. and Clark Pinnock, eds. Searching for an Adequate God (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000). 

 

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Microview: “Searching for an Adequate God” edited by John Cobb Jr. and Clark Pinnock

  1. I am constantly amazed with how quickly you can churn out these reviews. I am also amazed with the two theologies discussed in the above book (studied them in seminary). For me, the only “adequate God” is the transcendent God of Christianity: a god who needs me is not God.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | May 4, 2015, 7:25 AM
    • I think that you’re right in saying the God of classical theism is the only “adequate” one but the word “adequate” used for God is just so awkward. I thought it was extremely interesting to see that was the word chosen. As far as churning out reviews–I write many immediately on reading the book and then schedule them out. This book I finished in January.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 4, 2015, 11:52 AM
  2. Interesting book! I’ve always felt that there is always an autobiographical reason for advocates of both camps for holding to their respective theism. But I suppose that could be said of other advocates of Theology Proper. Just a feeling its more pronounced though with the two schools you mentioned

    Posted by SLIMJIM | May 5, 2015, 2:07 PM
    • Yes, I think there will always be some sort of existential reason to holding any belief whatsoever. My main complaint is that so much of the middle essays was taken up by people telling me about their journey. Forgive me, but I barely care at all. I’d rather get to the arguments.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 6, 2015, 7:08 PM
      • I agree with you J.W. I care more for the argument more than just the emotional story behind why one held to a certain view. Right on.

        Posted by SLIMJIM | May 6, 2015, 7:11 PM
      • Stories can be interesting, but I tend to prefer them in my science fiction.

        Joking aside, I think autobiographical accounts can be helpful regarding these issues, but to have three essays dominated by them was very tedious.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | May 6, 2015, 7:46 PM

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