Book Review: God’s Lesser Glory by Bruce A. Ware

 

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A Theology of Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption

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Zondervan, 1979

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the timeless doctrines of the Christian faith is God’s sovereignty, particularly His foreknowledge and unshakable control of human history. But what if God could not really control or foresee the future? This is the dilemma put forth by open theism, and this is the issue that author Bruce A. Ware tackles in his apologetical book, God’s Lesser Glory. Open theism claims that God does not and cannot impinge on human free will to receive or reject His offer of salvation and relationship. Furthermore, God does not know the future, as He can rely only on His wisdom of the present and the past to understand and respond to what occurs in the future. In response, author Ware refutes this doctrine as unsound teaching of Scripture. Through his book, Ware explains the doctrines of open theism and how it is flawed, but most importantly proves that God is sovereign and controls and understands the course of the history, even at the expense of libertarian human freedom.

Ware’s book is structured through three main sections. The first one deals with a general summary of the central tenets of open theism. Ware presents a fair and commendably accurate presentation of open theism that seeks not to mislead audiences with false presuppositions. The author begins with the rise of open theism, identifying the roots of this belief in Arminianist theology and the most popular adherents such as Clark Pinnock and David Basinger. This section also describes how open theists differ and detract from classical Arminianism in that, unlike Arminianism, open theists do not believe in God’s omniscience and His ability to know or plan aspects of the future.

Section Two presents the open theists view further by delineating theological arguments supporting the open theist view of God and His providence. Formulation of open theist beliefs begin with the hermeneutics, in which open theists come to their conclusions by reading certain texts (such as Gen 22:12 and 1 Sam 16:7) at face value and in a straightforward manner. The author debunks this practice, stating that this method of Scripture reading does not take into account the other Bible books and passages that teach the greater and more glorious truth of God’s foreknowledge of and ability to guide the course of progressive history. The final Section presents issues that arise from an openness understanding of God and how that affects Christian practices such as prayer, guidance, and the complex issue of pain, evil, and suffering. Ware offers hope to the reader based on what Scripture teaches about God’s sovereignty. The author’s final aim is to affirm the glory and incomprehensible power of God and to equip the reader to not only trust in Him, but defend His eternal attributes against threats such as open theism.

The author presents his message very well in the ordering, structure, and exploration of the topic. As previously stated, he is fair in how he treats the doctrines and threats of open theism in that he does not misrepresent or hide key points of open theism that are challenging or may seem valid. Ware exhibits good discernment of the issues and problems raised by openness theology and sets forth the differences between open theism and traditional views of God. However, Ware ultimately sets out to accomplish his goal, which is to expose the major weaknesses of open theology.

The author engages heavily with open theist Greg Boyd in chapter 4 and 5, taking his rebuttal into consideration and examining his straightforward reading of passages such as Isaiah 5:1-7 for support of God’s ignorance of human decisions. Although such readings at face value make it seem that an openness view of God is correct, Boyd tackles such challenges of interpretation by examining the whole of Scripture to get a clue as to how to read open theology-chosen passages. The major strength of Boyd’s work comes in when he analyzes a great number of prophetic passages such Isaiah 45:1-9 (which speaks of the future coming of King Cyrus) and books such as Job to speak of God’s immeasurable wisdom and guidance of people’s future. Such passages show themselves to be irrefutable proof of God’s omniscience and foreknowledge, and they even show themselves to be so when read at face value! The final section of chapters 7 through 9 are immensely practical for Christians, because it is in these pages that Ware describes the dangerous effect that open theology can have on a Christian’s discipleship life and how readers are to react, which is the main reason why Ware should write a book refutting open theology. There is not only the knowledge, but the final application.

God’s Lesser Glory is a book I would highly recommend, especially to pastors and laypeople who may have encountered the effects of openness theology in their lives. There is a great temptation to dismiss the topic of open theology because it seems like a peripheral issue of debate among Christian denominations. Upon reading this book, one comes to an understanding there is much more at stake. Prayer life, confidence in God, reaction to unexpected pain and suffering, exaltation of man’s ability and lowering of God’s glory are all beliefs that can be significantly shaped by an identification or rejection of openness theology. This is why God’s Lesser Glory should be a book that is widely read, considered, and reflected upon in a Christian’s life.

 

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