Defending #ClassicalTheism One Tweet at a Time

panentheismI just finished John W. Cooper’s masterful work Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers yesterday. It’s often charged that ‘classical theism’, the Augustinian tradition of theological reflection held broadly across Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed traditions, is ‘the God of the philosophers’ that was forged via the synthesis of Greek Philosophy and the Gospel. Usually this charge is leveled by those putting forward an alternative, more biblical, or whatever view, often coming from a panentheistic framework, or largely influenced by it. Cooper’s main task in this judicious, fair-minded, and quite comprehensive work is to trace the philosophical lineage of panentheism beginning with Neoplatonism through thinkers like Eriugena, Bohme, Cusa, Schelling, Hegel, and so forth on down into contemporary thinkers such as Hartshorne, Moltmann and Clayton.

Well, feeling a bit feisty and inspired, I took to twitter and began tweeting a series of one-line defenses of ‘classical theism.’ Some are snarky, others not so much. It’s Twitter so they lack the precision, and probably the charity of Cooper’s work. Twitter theology is always a risk. Still they were kinda fun and some friends joined in, so I figured I’d share them here.

Finally, he’s not actually on Twitter to participate, but it’s not a party without Kevin.

And we’ll sign off on that note. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Soli Deo Gloria

13 thoughts on “Defending #ClassicalTheism One Tweet at a Time

  1. So by starting with ‘Plato’ in the title, is he saying Platonic synthesis ends in less Augustine and more of the panentheism that some tout as more ‘biblical’?

  2. One thing that kinda bothered me about the post was the characterization of open theism as belief in a “hand-wringing” God “waiting to see how it all turns out.” I hear this over and over again from opponents to open theism and yet nothing I have ever read from proponents of open theism would suggest that they think of God this way at all. I’m not saying I agree (open theism has its issues, too), but the way Greg Boyd tends to describe God is as this infinitely wise chess master who anticipates and responds to every imaginable scenario, working toward redemption while preserving some level of genuine free will for His creation. That doesn’t sound weak or fretful to me. Again, I’m not saying I agree but if y’all are tired of Calvinist caricatures than maybe drop the caricatures of Arminians.

    Also, I just can’t look at the cross and believe that God has never suffered.

    • Rachel,

      Hey, ya, some of the problem comes in that these tweets kind of jab at a variety of deviations on classical theism. Although I think Open Theism has very serious problems when it comes to God’s guarantee that all will be well in the end, I more had in mind certain versions of panentheism and process theism. These often explicitly acknowledge that God cannot guarantee that.

      As for the God never suffering, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that God has suffered in Christ. In fact, that’s why he took on human nature. Divinity is not, of itself, capable of ‘suffering’ in the sense of being subject to passions or being the object of another’s actions contrary to his will. But, in Christ, the Son does just that thing. So, the incarnation is the way that God does that.

  3. Hi Derek. I’m afraid I’m probably a bit of a noob at this and may be misinterpreting, but… Is this classical theism as opposed to open theism? If so do we have to fall into those two boxes? Surely the bible should be what’s guiding our view of God, rather than greek philosophy – the name “classical theism” seems to undermine that. I get it can be all very exciting that greek philosophy came up with something that sounded vaguely like Yahweh, but that seems like little reason to care.

    It seemed like your point was that most people rejecting views they deem influenced by greek philosophy are from a panetheistic camp, and are actually truly influenced by greek philosophy too. But that’s not my experience. Most of the complaints I’ve heard about greek philosophy are from the messianic Jewish camp, who are not open theists!

    Can you agree it just feels a little weird describing our understanding of god by greek philosophy?

    classical
    ˈklasɪk(ə)l
    adjective
    1. relating to ancient Greek or Latin literature, art, or culture.

    • Erythro,

      Most of these are aimed more at panentheisms or process theisms, not specifically at open theism. That said, open theism often-times is motivated by some of the same philosophical–yes, philosophical–concerns raised by these traditions.

      Beyond that, the generalization about “not being motivated by Greek philosophy” has a number of issues.
      a. What counts as Greek philosophy? That’s part of what’s up for dispute.
      b. Saying something is wrong simply because it’s influenced by or uses arguments from Greek philosophy is a species of the genetic fallacy until some real conflict is shown between Scripture and a certain philosophical principle.
      c. If you go scan the rest of my blog, you’ll see that I’m very much an advocate of doing theology grounded in, normed by, and accountable to the Bible. Insofar as I find Greek philosophical concepts helpful in explaining what I find in Scripture, I’ll use it. Insofar as I don’t, or find them in conflict, then I won’t.

      I hope this is helpful in some way.

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