Moltmann, Open Theism, and the Kenosis of God

Roger Olson has recently shared some fascinating reflections about the personalities of various theologians he has known over the years (here and here). Among others, this has included references to some familiar names, including Olson’s teacher, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and his dear friend, the late great Stanley Grenz. But of particular interest to this blogger were Olson’s interactions with Jürgen Moltmann. Here is a unique window into a theological interaction with Molty after a few glasses of wine:

I found him to be quite shy and embarrassed by the spotlight. But he was always extremely gracious and friendly even if not particularly outgoing. Several of us took him to dinner one evening and enjoyed our time with him in a private dining room. I sat next to him so we had plenty of time for conversation. At first he was as always a bit reserved, but after perhaps five or six glasses of wine he became downright talkative. (The university hosting the lectures did not pay for the wine! I think the dean paid for it out of his own pocket! Moltmann, of course, did not know that.) I asked him about “open theism.” He asked me to explain it to him which I did. His response was: “But of course! That is part of the kenosis of God!”

Be sure to visit Olson’s blog for the rest. It seems that Open Theism is a distinctively American theological controversy. Moltmann didn’t appear to even be familiar with it, which reminded me of NT Wright’s recent dismissive response to a question on that subject. My exposure to Open Theism is primarily limited to Greg Boyd’s articulation of it (I read his book on the subject a few years ago, and have also listened to a few relevant sermons). I’m not sure how Olson explained Open Theism to Moltmann, but here is Boyd’s short explanation:

As Boyd argues for it, Open Theism is less about the nature of God than about the nature of the future, which is at least partially open to possibilities. When I first encountered Barth’s appropriation of Molinism and then later Moltmann’s understanding of the self-emptying of God at creation, it was easy to see some level of similarity. But maybe Open Theism (much like divine determinism on the other end of the spectrum) suffers from being too one-sided? Openness to the future is only one side of the coin, which I think is why N.T. Wright was bothered that Open Theism seems to force us into an unnecessary either-or on this question. We can speak of God living inside of time and thus incarnationally expecting the future (as we do) as including unsettled possibilities; but we can also speak of time as existing inside of God, and thus of God being present simultaneously with all times. The tension does not need to be resolved. This God is (as Molty has said elsewhere) not controlling everything, but carrying and bearing everything.

One thought on “Moltmann, Open Theism, and the Kenosis of God”

  1. Karl Barth and Molinism you say? Can I find this in the CD or elsewhere? Has anyone written on this? I would be interested.

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