Why is it that I feel the need to describe the idea of theory? Mostly because I don’t believe that most people really understand the idea of what theory is or its implications. The idea of a theory is not something that can be simply explained and there are multiple definitions. Because this is a theological discussion we are dealing with a technical definition here so which one fits. For my purposes I offer the following definition from the dictionaries of the world:
a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained and whose proposed explanation is still of the status of being conjectural.
In short a theory is a proposed explanation that seek to explain a phenomena coherently but has to admit that part of the explanation is still full of conjecture not facts. All theories have a few qualities that must be present 1) The must propose an explanation to how something works or is 2) The must be coherent and 3) they must acknowledge that part of them is still conjectural, that is there is part of them that is educated guess and not absolute facts.
So Does open dynamic Theory have these qualities?:
1) Open Dynamic theory to me does offer an explanation of how Biblical inspiration works. It attempts to show how God could inspire the Bible without overriding freewill of man and how the Bible could be both a human and divine work and that is completely OK.
2) Open Dynamic Theory accounts for all the factors that surround the Bible from how inspiration deals directly to the writer, copying of texts and how human error has crept in but also how this does not undercut divine inspiration. It accounts for changes in how God operates and that there are changes to his commands as time goes by thanks to its open theism component as well.
3) Open Dynamic Theory also acknowledges that there is still a lot of conjecture or educated guessing on how this works because if anyone is genuinely honest about biblical inspiration it is that there are gaps in both information and the Scripture text itself when it comes to how the Bible is inspired and why. Like it or not the idea that the Bible is inspired by God has an element that people must take on faith and not clear explanation. The Bible at times assumes its inspiration and does not attempt to prove it. That is why we must say all theories of inspiration are and never will be more than theories. Open dynamic theory makes no attempt to deny this or make itself an exception to this.
What be understood is that all theories of inspiration are attempting to describe how something works without complete information. There is also the problem of not being able to get even more information. We have what we have but as questions come up and new ideas are posed to how inspiration works theories are far more flexible to handle those changes or be discarded as they are shown to be incoherent.
What also must be understood at this point is that a person making the statement: ‘I believe the Bible is inspired by God’ is truly a statement of faith. Faith that is founded on history and other factors but faith nonetheless. This is not something you can prove to a point where it cannot be questioned.
This is why theories of inspiration like Dictation, Verbal Plenary and Limited die after a plain honest reading of Scripture and understanding of basic textual criticism. They don’t pass the test of simple coherence given what fact there are in evidence. The rest have elements of truth but don’t account for everything to my satisfaction. Dynamic Theory was the closest to what I felt must be true but it required modification by having a more open theist view of Biblical history and revelation and a little dash of Illumination theory to explain how exactly a human author was inspired. Open Dynamic Theory is a hybrid theory of sort but it has its own unique element compared to the other main theories – open theism.
Like all theories it will be subject to criticism and challenge but that is a good thing and necessary. It allows us to move forward with coming up with better explanations of how God inspired his Word and not hold on to old dead weight that no longer survives in the era of modern scrutiny.
Next: Problems with Open Dynamic Theory