“The Cosmic Dance” and Open Theism

By | June 21, 2016

“The Cosmic Dance: What Science Can Teach Us about the Nature of Time, Life, God & Humpty Dumpty” is a new book written by Greg Boyd along with help from a number of his friends. This book is somewhat unique in that he attempts to tackle a deep subject through a graphic novel (comic book) format. Essentially, in this book Boyd explains how he believes that new discoveries in science support open theism. In order to do this, he attempts to briefly describe in layman’s terms quantum physics, chaos and complexity theories, the theory of relativity, etc.

Open theism can be understood in a number of ways. One way is that rather than God knowing the one way that the future will turn out (as is commonly believed), he actually knows the range of possibilities for how it could play out. However God doesn’t know for certain which of these possibilities will come to pass. This is not to say that any future is possible. There are fixed parameters so there are likewise a limited range of possibilities. Open theism has certainly been controversial among some groups of Christians. Yet one could argue that the open view imagines a bigger God than do the more classical views.

It is commonly taught that God is outside of time, and that therefore he must know now what will happen in the future. Some say that God fixes every single detail in the universe, because if he didn’t, it would mean that those un-fixed things were outside of God’s control. And if something were outside of God’s control, it would mean that God isn’t all powerful so the thinking goes. Others believe that God merely knows the future but doesn’t fix it. However, it can be a challenge to explain how God isn’t responsible for what happens if he knows for certain that a specific cause will lead to a specific effect.

The latter belief is based on a deterministic view of the world. This is the idea that a certain cause will always lead to the same effect. However, recent developments in science suggest that there is an amount of indeterminism built into the fabric of the universe. Because of this, we can’t know for sure exactly what will happen until it has happened. Once again, this does not mean anything could happen; there are usually a limited number of potential outcomes. So instead of only one possible outcome which always follows from an action, there might be two or even a handful of different possible results.

One of the basic ideas behind open theism is the belief that choice is real. Human beings truly have free will, it’s not merely an illusion. Boyd believes that in this way, science, our experience, and the Bible are all in alignment. He believes that it was actually classical theology, influenced by classical science and philosophy, which was out of alignment with our experience and the Bible.

While this may all be fascinating, what is the importance and implications of open theism? Why bother to write a book about it at all? A person’s beliefs about God make a significant difference in how they view themselves, others, and the world, including the evil therein. Open theism provides solid structural support for a belief that evil comes from the actions of beings with true free will (human and angelic). Evil does not originate from the God of the Bible.

Some people struggle with the idea that if God created everything, he must therefore ultimately be responsible for evil too. But it is a rule that something’s capacity for good will have an equivalent capacity for bad. God made a world which was not completely fixed in stone. Rather, he set up a space where life could happen, like a terrarium. He set up the possibility for great goodness and love and beauty. But this also meant that there was the possibility for bad, even great evil. Boyd argues that what we’re learning about the natural world through science aligns with this view of God.

In the view of open theism, God is creating the future along with us. This is the cosmic dance.

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