Friday, January 25, 2013


Well, that’s quite a title, isn’t it?  And the last bit will be completely lost on my non-Star Trek readers (and likely confusing at this point for even my Trek friends).  -  So, what is this all about?

This is about a few reflections that I was making as I was lying in bed, getting ready to go to sleep, a couple of nights ago.  That is to say, this isn’t really a “well researched” article.  That, of course, makes it, perhaps, a bad idea to publish this on the blog.  However, it does give others the opportunity to educate me concerning my very limited understanding of open theology. 

Dr. Thomas J. Oord
And, yes, I admit a very limited understanding of open theology.  I have done next to no real reading about open theology.  Thus, I would be happy for those who are proponents of open theology (e.g., Tom Oord ) to correct me.  (Well, kinda’ happy.  I would hate for them to completely make this article sound stupid!)

That part of open theology that I am questioning in this article is the idea that God does not know the future.  This idea is an attempt to explain true human freedom.  Traditional Arminianism, at this point, says that God does fore-know, but God does not fore-determine the future.  That is to say, traditional Arminianism wants to safeguard human freedom, on the one hand, and God’s omniscience, on the other hand.

Jacob Arminius
Open theology would be seen as a subset of Arminianism.  That is to say, it cannot fit under a Calvinistic perspective which says that God not only knows, but also pre-destines all that will ever happen.  Arminianism says that God does not pre-destine all that will ever happen.  Traditional Arminianism, however, says that God does know all that will ever happen.  Open theology is a subset of Arminianism that differs from traditional Arminianism by saying that God neither pre-destines, nor knows what will happen.  -  As I understand it, at least some open theologians would say that God may know all of the possibilities for the future, and perhaps even the probabilities.  Nevertheless, God cannot know, with certainty, the future, for the future cannot be known.

That is the idea that I want to challenge.

If I understand open theology correctly (and that is a big “if”), then it seems to me that open theology makes God subject to the time-space continuum (at least the time aspect, and as Science indicates, time and space are connected).  -  This is different from the traditional Arminian (and Calvinist?) idea that God is situated outside of time; above time.  -  If God does not know the future (because it cannot be known, because it has not happened yet, and because we are all truly free), then God is not “above” time, but rather “within time;” limited by time.

(The argument that I am about to make is dependent upon the accuracy of the previous paragraph.  If I have completely misunderstood this, then my argument will likely be easily torn apart.)

Now, if God is limited by future time, it seems to me that it would be difficult to argue that God is not limited by past time, as well.  -  This is where Stephen Hawking comes in.

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking has stated (if I remember this correctly!) that he believes that Science proves that God does not exist, or at least that God the Creator does not exist.  -  Here is what he says (as I remember it):

Time and space exist in a continuum, i.e., they are linked.  Time is affected by space, in particular, by gravity.  Einstein came up with the idea that gravity warps space.  And, since space and time are linked, time, too is warped in the same way.  Further, time gets slower the greater the gravity.  This explains why the clocks on satellites have to continually be adjusted.  It also explains Hawking’s theory that it could, at some point, be theoretically possible to “time-travel” into the future (though not to the past).   -  But that is another subject!

At any case, Hawking argues that when one (figuratively!) goes back in time to the point of the “big bang,” due to the density of space, time would slow down to the point that time actually stops.  He argues, then, that there would literally be no time (or space?) for a god to “say, ‘Let there be . . .’”  There would be no time for anybody to say anything or to do anything.  There would be no time.

Hawking’s assumption, interestingly, is very much like the assumption of open theology.  Namely, Hawking and open theologians, both, understand God to be One who is subject to, bound by, limited by . . . time.  The open theologian understands God to be limited by (present and) future time (i.e., the reason for God not being able to know the future is an issue of time).  Hawking sees God as being limited by past (and all) time.

If open theology subjects God to future time, I find it difficult to understand how God would not be subject to time in the past.  That is, why would Hawking be wrong about the existence of this god?

That is my question for open theology.  (Now, it may easily be answered by open theologians, but I would like to hear the answer; an answer that views time consistently and takes what Science says about time, seriously.)

So, if open theology is correct, why is Stephen Hawking incorrect?  And if Stephen Hawking is incorrect (i.e., if God actually exists outside of time and space, and actually is the Creator of time and space), then why should we assume that open theology not also incorrect?

This, by the way, is a subject that Fred Cawthorne, Associate Professor of Physics at Trevecca Nazarene University, takes up in his chapter, “The Harmony of Science and the Christian Faith” in Square Peg: Why Wesleyan’s Aren’t Fundamentalists (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City).  -  There, he is not arguing with open theology.  He is, however, using the conclusions of Science and the beginning of creation to affirm the traditional Christian understanding “that God transcends space and time, that the universe was created ex nihilo (out of nothing) and that the universe is fully dependent at every moment on God’s continual creative and sustaining work.”

Now, where, some might wonder, do Guinan and the “worm-hole prophets” come in?  (I saved this for the last part of the article to make sure that my non-Star Trek friends would not stop reading before getting to the main point!  -  So, here we go.)

Guinan is a character played by Whoopi Golberg in Star Trek the Next Generation.  Guinan is an El-Aurian, a very long-lived “race of listeners.”  Last night I watched the “Yesterday’s Enterprise” episode of STNG.  In that episode, there is a rift in the time-space continuum, allowing the Enterprise-C to enter into the time period of the Enterprise-D; some 22 years into their future (if I remember the time correctly).  This event caused a seismic change in the time-space continuum.  It altered the timeline.

Now, no one was aware of this change in the timeline (though, or course they were quite aware that the Enterprise-C was displaced in time).  -  No one, that is, except Guinan.  Guinan had the clear . . . “sense” that this time-line was wrong.  -  Data suggested that she might have a sense that went beyond linear time.  (Some have speculated that this sense might have to do with her connection to the Nexus, but that is another story!)  The point is, she had a sense that went beyond linear time.

The “worm-hole prophets,” on the other hand are from Star Trek: Deep Space 9.  Suffice it to say that they were . . . aliens . . . who existed outside of time.

Of course, Guinan and the worm-hole prophets are fictional characters.  (I do know that!)  The point is only to say that, if the God of open theology were to be a part of the Star Trek universe, then, at least in this regard, Guinan and the worm-hole prophets would be greater than God.  . . . And do we really want to say that!  :0)