Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Brian McLaren, Simple Time and an Interactive Creation

“Many Christians seem to believe that God’s relationship with the universe is deterministic, that God has already filmed the future in his mind, and what we’re seeing unfold in history is the showing of a movie that’s already ‘in the can’ so to speak. I don’t believe that. I believe God’s relationship with creation—including us—is interactive. God gives us warnings, which are an invitation to change our ways. God gives us promises, which are an invitation to persevere when the going gets tough.” -Brian McLaren

I found this quote on my RSS feed to Emergent Village

I met Brian this last November, and have had a chance to speak with him on a few instances recently, - a ride in the car, eating breakfast together with others at a conference, and hobnobbing around Harvard Divinity and Gordon College students. I decidedly enjoyed being around him, but here I truly like his thinking!

I am surely showing my heretical bias. This flies in the face of the likes of Calvin, and Augustine, but who the heck really cares besides a few of you who have theological cramps. (smile, smile - avoiding emoticon use here for the sake of being hyper-cool)

A little reading up on the God and Time theories of William Lane Craig will give you a sense of where I am coming from. A little sense. Craig is still a devoted reformed theologian, and I am not coming from that perspective, but he outlines what I believe is an element of theology, which gives the kind of guidelines necessary for Brian to make his comments above.

Now I do not know if Brian believes in Simple or A Time, which states that the present is all that exists - the past and the future can not be accessed, because they are not real things. The past is gone, and the future does not exist because it has not yet come into being. Sorry if this messes up your time travel theory, and your belief that God dwells in both the past and the future as He dwells in the present.

I believe that an undetermined future in which God actively relates to us in the present necessitates Simple Time as it is so nicely outlined by William Lane Craig. I felt this way long before I read Craig's stuff, but he's got the pedigree and brains to really say it, so I'll let him speak more deeply on that subject for now. My point is I was really glad to see this quote - Go Brian!


Adam Gonnerman said...


This is open theism, isn't it? When I first heard of it several years ago it disgusted me. When I revisited it last year (or was it 2006) it made a lot of sense to me. I've posted indirectly on the topic, especially in my post on "The Key to Understanding Predictive Prophecy." Open theism has its questions, from a scriptural standpoint, but in my opinion makes a lot more sense than the traditional Platonic view.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Adam,

In the debate on God and Time (there is a great "4 Views" book out on it) Simple Time does not necessarily relate to Open Theism - especially considering that its prime proponent is a reformed theologian, but Open Theism must take Simple Time into account to make sense I believe.

What Brian is saying does have an Open Theism sound doesn't it? But I am not sure that is where he is going with his thoughts.

Bruce said...

Hi Phil. Your comments sound a lot like the Baby-Bathwater thing. Confusing our ability to make real decisions and God's practice of really responding to what we come up with--confusing them with the bigger step (and unnecessary step) of saying that God neither causes all things nor knows all things.

The Reformers are sort of a tar baby here (appeal to Song of the South isn't racism is it?). O Please, Brer Phil, don' toss me inna predestination thorn bush. Whatever would I do? Then I'd have to say that God is all wise, all knowing of the future AND that He loves us and answers our prayers and holds us responsible.

Hmm, as (I believe) Thomas Aquinas said in so many words, God in His omniscience and wisdom has appointed us to prayer, granting us *the dignity of causality." I love that phrase: the dignity of causality.

In short, ya can't jump from denying that God is Aristotle's First Cause, Deism's Impersonal Creator, or Plato's pure simplicity/Good--to saying that therefore open theism must be true.

Incidentally, Greg Ganssle, editor of God & Time, 4 views, is my good friend from grad school days at Syracuse in Philosophy.

Anonymous said...

When I ponder the predestination/free will debate I get a headache and then I prefer free will because I know God interacts with us and encourages us to initiate our own free will. I like that "dignity of causality".

When I try to compromise Calvinism and incorporate it in my belief though it gives me a greater sense of God's immense bigness and my smallness which in turn then gives me a greater sense of God's great big love for little small me and so on...

... oh and yeah, I still think the past and future are accessible to God but not us but who knows, there may one day be an actual flux capacitor. (insert emoticon here)

Steve Hayes said...

Calvinists sometimes tell me that Calvin never really did say that, or if he did say it he didn't mean it. But life's too short to read Calvin to see if he really did say it or not, or to try to discover what he meant by it. I haven't read all the works of St Maximus the Confessor yet, which are probably far more edifying; when I've done that I might get round to Calvin.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Bruce,

I am not making the baby-bathwater mistake at all. Actually I am simply making two statements here: 1) I believe in simple time, and feel tat it is a necessary element from acknowledging Free Will, and 2) this connects to the concept of real interactivity with God in His creation.

I am not speaking to His knowledge of the future. Causes all things? Now that I suppose I have some problem with - especially as it concerns the problem of evil.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Carl,

I like that "dignity of causality" thing too. Nice call - good quote Bruce.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Steve,

Life is too short. I've been wading through Armenius and Petr Chelcicky, and will definitely finish those before I go to Calvin.

hylander said...

I'll admit that I am not a big fan of McLaren. I have read several of his works for the purpose of knowing what all the fuss was about. But, there are some interesting points he makes regarding the time/space continuum with God and His/our interaction with it. I am from a more modified classical Reformed background, with a touch of modernity i.e. Mark Driscoll, therefore I would side away from those in the open theism camp. But I agree with phil that I don't think McLaren is making any determined inferences toward open theism unless it is merely coincidental.

Thanks for the link to Craig's web page, I thought that it was really helpful. I am a fan of Craig of course :) I am also a fan of Alvin Plantinga, who is another christian philosopher who came to my mind when you mentioned something in one of the comments by you regarding "the problem of evil". Here is a somewhat lengthy philosophical artical and critique on the "logical problem of evil"


Pastor Phil said...

Hey Will,

Thanks for the link to Plantinga. I am quite thankful for the Christian philosophers who are rising to the top in the recent years.