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The Sovereignty of God Debate

By George Kalantzis
November 2011 | Review by Gwyn Davies

Synopsis

How is God sovereign with respect to creation? Does creation affect God? Does God suffer or change because of creation? If so, how is this related to Christology? Why have these questions been so controversial in evangelical theology, even costing some people their jobs? This book is a collection of lectures given to the Forum for Evangelical Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Six theologians answer the questions above from a variety of perspectives. They draw on resources including the church fathers, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Jurgen Moltmann, process theology, and open theism. In the process of answering the question, does God suffer? each theologian also illustrates how responding to this subject requires an examination of other crucial evangelical issues, such as how we read Scripture and what it means to proclaim that God is love. Although the writers answer these questions in a variety of ways, the hope is that engaging in this conversation together can help evangelicals and all Christians to speak more faithfully of our sovereign God.

  • Publisher: James Clarke & Co
  • ISBN: 978-0-227-17296-4
  • Pages: 193
  • Price: 25.50
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Book Review

The title of this book, while not entirely inappropriate, is nevertheless a little misleading. It is not a book about Calvinism versus Arminianism. Rather, it is concerned with matters relating to what might be broadly termed ‘open theism’, and in particular with the question ‘Does God suffer?’

The book has its origins in lectures from a variety of theological standpoints to the Forum for Evangelical Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois.

The lectures cover topics ranging from discussions in the early church regarding the sovereignty of God to Calvin’s view of God’s unchangeability, from John Wesley’s views to those of Jürgen Moltmann.

The lecturers themselves are from a wide variety of backgrounds. John Sanders a prominent figure in Open Theism circles is included so is Thomas Weinandy, a Catholic Friar.

Jimmy Cooper provides a helpful introduction to the main issues, and at the end there are responses from all the lecturers, except Weinandy, to the other contributors.

It will be immediately apparent that this is a book of academic theology, and is hardly to be recommended to the ‘average Christian reader’, let alone the ‘average Christian’.

Can it be recommended at all? There is surely merit in free discussion of theological and biblical issues. The book offers no conclusions as such, but helpful insights are certainly to be found among the more orthodox contributors. For those who might be interested, there are sympathetic summaries of the perspectives represented by process theology, Moltmann, and open theism. At the same time, prospective readers should bear in mind the warning in its final sentence: ‘As Stanley Hauerwas has told us, many of those whom we have learned to call heretics “have succumbed to the temptation to say too much by explaining what cannot be explained.”’

 

Gwyn Davies

Aberystwyth

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