About three years ago I posed the question to my fellow open theists on a forum I was involved with at the time if open theism necessitated a fresh look at Biblical Inspiration. Oddly, the group seemed to think not but a few did. Like me they had realized that if God lives in dynamic relationship with people then the nature of the dynamic relationship would affect how the Biblical writers were inspired to write Scripture. Open Theists in large part don’t seem to realize that a God that has some mutability and some ability to be flexible about future events means that even in the Bible you have those moments where things are hanging in the balance. It also means their were alternate ways that the history of the Bible as we know it could have been different. What if Moses had continued to not want to serve God at the burning bush? What if the Israelites had indeed wiped out all the Canaanites? What if King David doesn’t sleep with Bathsheba? These are all possibilities that open theists must accept as possible to maintain the idea of dynamic interaction where things are at least partially open as far as the future is concerned with God. I am not sure all my open theist brethren agree with this.
I think in part as much as we open theists are very different in how we conceive God’s foreknowledge to work, we have a continual fear of going completely ‘off the grid’ theologically speaking. The problem is we have been questioning God’s immutability or his ability to change depending on his experiences. We also have to postulate that God does not use his power coercively all the time but at times he simply seeks to persuade his people to the proper path. To do this we are already on the edge of the theological grid anyway but there seems to be a fear actually jumping off. Having re-conceived God pretty much from the ground up, we open theists seem to still want to cling to our past in some way and the most common way I see is we continue to do this is maintaining traditional theories of Biblical Inspiration even though many of those theories counter the basic things we have challenged as open theists.
For myself I haven’t been to afraid of going off the grid in a long time. Going off the grid from the standard things saved my faith. If I had to maintain traditional doctrines I would be a happy agnostic by now. But it was taking a step back and realizing it was common Biblical interpretations and Theology systems that were flawed, not necessarily the Bible’s presentation of God and his interactions with humanity. I had to rethink God completely and this lead to me back to faith. So it only stands to reason that I might have to rethink how Biblical inspiration works.
Open theism is actually the reason that I have discarded many of the theories of inspiration but I never said so directly. Trying to find a theory of inspiration where God does not use his power coercively and is willing to face an open future even in the inspiration of the Bible is not something that any of them really come close to doing including Dynamic Theory which comes the closest. It does acknowledge the idea that God is jointly involved with the inspiration of the Bible but it is uncertain where it stands when it comes to how this inspiration actually works. Illumination seems to be a better theory for the how it works but there seems a lot of empty space as to how God with inspire without being coercive. God increases the degree of inspiration to the point that it overwhelms the writer. In large part the two theories I like have a similar problem in that they are vague about a lot of factors and I find that unacceptable in a world where critical evaluation is a factor.
There are some elements that are necessary for me to consider.
1. The theory I come up with must not present God as necessarily coercive to inspire the Bible. I am not saying that God can’t be coercive in his use of power to inspire the bible, but as an open theist I feel it should be reduced to a minimum.
2. There needs to be a dynamic element in the inspiration process that allows for each writer to be fully who they are and for God to still create an authoritative document that contains his desires and wish for humanity.
3. The needs to be a consideration of how such a doctrine allows for the interaction between Biblical characters and God in the creation of Biblical history and a record of that history. If God is not forcing a certain history, how can that history still be inspired? If history is partially open then the Bible was inspired in this environment and this needs to be considered.
4. It must allow for the consideration of alternate possibilities in biblical interpretation as genuine.
5. There needs to be an understanding of how inspiration works specifically.
All of these elements could take some time to consider but this is why I do theology. It is puzzles like this that compel me to dig deeper and find and answer.
Next: Inspiration as Persuasive not Coercive.