Posted by: splat | February 7, 2012

Open Theism and The Prodigal Son

One of things I have been impressed by OVT (short for Open View Theology or Open Theism) is its emphasis on our relationship with God.  For this reason I sometimes rather casually refer to it as “relationship theology”.  This is my own terminology but I came up with it because so  much theology out there that is like “dry bones” because it devoid of any kind of relational aspect (at least in my opinion).

Anyway, here is the parable of the prodigal son, reiterated here for convenience.

Luke 15:11-24 NASB And He said, “A man had two sons. (12) “The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. (13) “And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (14) “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. (15) “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. (16) “And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. (17) “But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! (18) ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ (20) “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (21) “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ (22) “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; (23) and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; (24) for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

When did the father in the parable feel compassion for his son?  Was it not when he saw him coming yet at a distance?  When did he run towards him?  Was it not yet again when he saw him coming?  Is this parable not a picture of our heavenly Father in heaven when a sinner repents and returns to Him?

Many people, if not most, that I speak to, believe that the Father had no reason to respond when he saw the son returning from a distance because he knew all from the foundation of the world.  However, that would mean that the Father would feel nothing during the encounter because all His emotions would have long since subsided since the foundation of the world.  For the Father it would be nothing more than a video that he had already watched many times before and had perhaps even had become boring already.  Can you see how unsatisfying this kind of relationship would be for both participants if one of the participants was just playing a game?

With Open Theism, our heavenly Father genuinely participates in relationships.  Although there are different views within the OVT camp how our Father accomplishes this:  Some say He willingly limits His omniscience in order to have genuine relationships but I prefer to say this alternative:  That the future is not set in concrete and we can make choices that can change the future in some small limited way.  Actually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I believe we can change the future in a very big way, for good.  In fact, I would say, that our Father, would prefer to work through us, through our free will following after Him.  This is why I see so much potential in what I call “relationship theology”.

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