30 July 2004


As some of you may know, on Monday I leave for Tokyo, Japan for two weeks in order to give some lectures, meet with some missionaries, visit friends, and see the sights.

On Saturday August 7, I'll be giving a couple of lectures on Open Theism sponsored by the Covenant Worldview Institute in Tokyo. This will be a fairly formal lecture, with Japanese translation, and a question and answer period. I'll be covering much of the same material on August 12, though more informally with a group of folks involved in founding the Nagoya Theological Seminary, a mission work associated with the PCA.

The following is an abstract of my lectures:

In my first lecture I outline open theism’s challenge against classical Christian theism. Classical theism has maintained that God is essentially immutable, impassible, and self-sufficient, as well as omniscient with regard to the future free actions of creatures. Open theists have challenged such a conception as presenting a God who is static and inert, aloof and detached, unable to feel compassion, to respond to creatures, and to be the loving God of Christian theism.

Thus, open theists have presented a revised notion of who God is, arguing that the God of open theism is theologically and philosophically more credible than that of classical theism. The God of open theism is a God who is responsive to creatures and open to their influence, so that creaturely freedom sets limits upon God, rendering God dependent upon the world in various respects. For instance, for the open theists, God must learn the future as it comes to pass. The bulk of the first lecture is taken up with outlining the argument of the open theists, commending its strengths, and seeking what might be positively learned from it.

In my second lecture I respond to the challenge of open theism from the standpoint of classical theism, arguing that the traditional Christian doctrine of Trinity provides the resources for a philosophically sophisticated and theologically satisfying response. While classical Trinitarian theism has maintained the doctrines of divine immutability, impassibility, and so on, it has done so in terms of a God who is conceived in as an eternal event—“pure act”—explained in terms of the eternal processions among the divine Persons.

As such, while maintaining the contours of classical theism, it is possible to argue that God is not only dynamic and passionate, but also eternally includes a certain kind of analogical vulnerability, self-emptying, and even “suffering” within the divine life. Thus classical theism, unfolded in Trinitarian terms, is able to embrace the sound and legitimate insights of open theism, while still retaining the proper safeguards of a classical theism that preserves our notion of God as “wholly Other.”

Hopefully the lectures will be helpful to Japanese Christians, particularly evangelical university and seminary students.

I've raised about three-quarters of the support I need for the trip. If you'd like to contribute, send a check made out to "Tenth Presbyterian Church" with "missions" on the memo line and enclose a note specifying the gift for "Joel Garver - Japan." For church tax-purposes, it's important that my name not appear on the check itself. Send to:

Tenth Presbyterian Church
attn: Christy Corbett
1701 Delancey St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

I appreciate your prayers for a safe and fruitful trip.