Open and Relational Theology, also known as Open Theism or Process Theology, presents a profound and compelling perspective on the nature of God and the dynamic relationship between God and the world. It challenges traditional notions of divine immutability and determinism, emphasizing the openness of the future and the interactive nature of God’s engagement with creation. This article aims to explore the key principles and benefits of Open and Relational Theology, shedding light on its transformative potential.
1. God’s Openness and Responsive Love
Open and Relational Theology posits that God is open to genuine interaction and is affected by the choices and actions of individuals. Unlike traditional views that emphasize an immutable and omniscient God, Open and Relational Theology portrays a God who actively listens, responds, and co-creates with humanity. This understanding allows for a deeper sense of relationship and connection between God and creation.
As scholar Thomas Jay Oord notes, “God’s essential nature is uncontrolling love.”1Oord, Thomas Jay. “The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence.” IVP Academic, 2015. This perspective highlights God’s responsiveness, portraying a loving God who seeks authentic relationship with individuals. It affirms that God’s love is not coercive but respects human freedom and honors the significance of our choices.
2. Embracing an Open Future
Central to Open and Relational Theology is the idea that the future remains partially open and influenced by the choices of free agents. Rather than perceiving the future as exhaustively predetermined, this perspective allows for genuine human freedom and moral responsibility. It recognizes that our decisions and actions play a vital role in shaping the course of our lives and the world around us.
Open Theist philosopher and theologian John Sanders argues, “God cannot foreknow future free decisions because it is logically impossible to do so.”2Sanders, John. “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence.” InterVarsity Press, 2007. This notion challenges the traditional view of divine omniscience and offers a refreshing perspective that values human agency and co-creation.
3. The Process of Becoming
Open and Relational Theology often draws inspiration from process philosophy, which views reality as dynamic and constantly evolving. It recognizes that both the universe and all beings within it are in a perpetual state of becoming. This perspective contrasts with static views of reality, providing a framework that aligns with scientific understandings of an evolving cosmos.
Process theologian David Ray Griffin asserts, “Reality is not static or finished, but is constantly in the process of becoming.”3Griffin, David Ray. “Reenchantment without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion.” Cornell University Press, 2001. This understanding affirms the potential for growth, change, and transformation in our lives and spiritual journeys. It invites us to embrace the inherent dynamism of existence and participate in the ongoing co-creative process with God.
4. A Theology of Hope and Possibility
Open and Relational Theology offers a refreshing alternative to deterministic views that may leave individuals feeling trapped or hopeless. By acknowledging the open-ended nature of the future and God’s responsive love, this theology cultivates a sense of hope, possibility, and optimism.
Author and theologian Clark Pinnock states, “Openness theology offers a theology of hope, for it takes seriously the biblical teaching that God responds to our prayers and our suffering.”4Pinnock, Clark H. “Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness.” Baker Academic, 2001. This perspective recognizes the potential for change and redemption, affirming that God actively engages in our lives to bring about healing, justice, and transformation.
Open and Relational Theology presents an inspiring and transformative theological perspective. By embracing the openness of God, the dynamic relationship between God and creation, and the co-creative nature of existence, this theology invites individuals to explore a deeper sense of connection, hope, and possibility. It challenges traditional notions and encourages us to engage in a responsive and interactive relationship with the divine. As we delve into the complexities and mysteries of Open and Relational Theology, we open ourselves to a transformative understanding of God’s love, our agency, and the profound possibilities that lie ahead.
- 1Oord, Thomas Jay. “The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence.” IVP Academic, 2015.
- 2Sanders, John. “The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence.” InterVarsity Press, 2007.
- 3Griffin, David Ray. “Reenchantment without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion.” Cornell University Press, 2001.
- 4Pinnock, Clark H. “Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness.” Baker Academic, 2001.