SBTS’s Resolution Against Open Theism

( [email protected] ) Oct 22, 2003 09:38 AM EDT

On Oct. 14, the board of trustees and the faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) unanimously voted on God’s omniscience of the future and opposed open theism as “an egregious biblical and theological departure from orthodoxy” at their fall meeting.

The debate over open theism has been at the heart of Southern faculty members. Not only the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology showed interest on this issue in 2001 but theology professor Bruce Ware also published two major books on this topic.

According to the resolution made at the meeting, it says: "Open theism's denial of God's exhaustive definite foreknowledge constitutes an egregious biblical and theological departure from orthodoxy and poses a serious threat to evangelical integrity. In accordance with our confessional documents -- the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message -- the Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary affirms God's exhaustive definite foreknowledge including the knowledge of all future free choices and actions of his creatures, and thereby denies that open theism is a viable evangelical view."

President R. Albert Mohler Jr. reaffirmed God’s predestination by noting Apostle Peter. He said, "When Peter and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin, ... Peter in his Pentecost sermon made clear, 'these things happened by the plan and predetermined will of God in order that Christ would die'"

"If you take this position of open theism seriously and begin to look at it, the entire plan of salvation comes down to God's good intentions rather than His saving act," he said.

Open theists believe that God does not know the future decisions because nothing has been made about the future.

Faculty members are planning to take action on open theism at the upcoming annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which will be held in Atlanta on Nov. 19-21. At the meeting it will be decided whether or not the two proponents of open theism, McMaster Divinity College’s Clark Pinnock and Huntingdon College’s John Sanders, will be expelled.

Currently within the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), there is a big debate going on over whether or not it is possible to maintain the inerrancy of the Bible while not believing in God’s omniscience of the future.

"I think [it is] an extremely powerful statement from an institution to have a unanimous action by the faculty and by the board affirming this," Mohler said.

"It's not as if this is an open question for us; the answer is absolutely and explicitly given to us in the Baptist Faith and Message and the Abstract of Principles. So it's not like we are coming up with a new doctrinal statement. This is a specially timed resolution addressed to an issue that is not, by name of course, mentioned in our confessional documents."