Richard Beck on the Risky God of Open Theism

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post responding to Richard Beck’s series from a few years ago on divine apatheia: Divine Freedom, Apatheia, and Gentile Politics. Richard Beck engaged the post in the comment section,

“Thanks for engaging those old posts of mine. I think your criticisms are very valid and in the seven years since I wrote those posts I’ve come to a position very similar one you articulate here. Also through reading theologians like Moltmann, Cone and Gutierrez.

In my wrestling with the problem of suffering in 2007 I was writing from a place that envisioned God as an impersonal force. I was reading a lot of Buddhism, Spinoza and stoic philosophy. The series I wrote reflected those influences. I was probably more Buddhist than Christian in 2007. But I think about those things very differently now.

What I find potent in your critique of stoicism is how it mutes the prophetic cry and struggle for justice. The oppressed are asked to accept their fate impassively, stoically. That is hugely problematic.

In the end, that’s the reason I moved on to embrace the passionate God who suffers alongside the oppressed in their struggle toward liberation.”

In a recent post by Beck, he “experiments” with relational theology, while discussing both process and open theisms: Empathic Open Theism. While I will keep re-reading this post, I think I agree with most of it, and I may engage it in the near future after my Anabaptist Theology and Black Power series this week. My friends Tom and Dwayne over at An Open Orthodoxy have started a series engaging Beck: Beck on Empathic Open Theism and Experimental Open Theism Part 1, even bringing some questiosn to Beck’s own questions of libertarian free will.

I will leave you with a quote from Richard Beck, whose arguing for God’s Otherness / Transcendence while affirming the Incarnation:

“Let me add this to the discussion.

Open theism is often associated with God taking “risks” with humanity. I agree, but my view changes this a bit.

Specifically, in my view the “risk” God takes is less about prediction than Otherness. That is, what makes the human/divine interaction a relationship isn’t God being unable to predict what a free agent will do. That’s not what makes for a relationship. What makes for a relationship is a sort of “unknowing” that exists between two people, an “unknowing” that both partners work to overcome in the act of deepening relational intimacy. True, when you don’t know someone well they are “unpredictable” to you, but the deeper issue is the lack of intimacy rather than the other person having free will.

So what I’m suggesting is that when God created humanity God gave us experiential space that was uniquely our own. And by giving us this space we became, to some degree, “strangers” to God. That was the risk God took, granting us that relational autonomy, to enter into a relationship with some “unknowns.” To allow us to start off, to some degree, as “strangers.”

And more, in creating this situation God knew that the only way to fully and finally “know us” God would have to enter into and participate in the fullness of human experience “from the inside.” Which meant that to fully know us God knew God had to suffer. Thus the love song of the Incarnation, God’s ultimate act of “coming near” to close the gap.

In sum, God’s risk wasn’t the risk of unpredictability–“What will they do?”–but the risk of intimacy–“Here am I. Who are you?” “

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