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Bound Only Once: The Failure of Open Theism [Paperback]

By Douglas Wilson (Editor)
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Item description for Bound Only Once: The Failure of Open Theism by Douglas Wilson...

The problems with Open theism lie deeper than most critiques suggest. This book interacts not only with the truth claims of Open theism but also its distorted aesthetic and ethical assumptions that do so much work in that program. Open theists characterize the God of classical Christian theism as a distant, despotic, micromanaging, petty, Mr. Burns sovereign, with little time for nonsense or tissues. They depict the god of Open theism as a nineties sort of guy, ready to enter into new experiences, feel our pain, and link pinkies into an unknown future. Open theists insist that God has knowledge, but not all knowledge, certainly not knowledge of the future acts of free beings and some statues. Such Open theistic inferences reveal a deep-seated devotion to Enlightenment categories and narrow unpoetic imaginations. Ideas have destinations, and one of the consequences of our trying to read the Scriptures without any poetry in our souls will be the eventual destruction of any possibility of ministering to souls. Just imagine the hymn writer trying to lift up the downcast. "I know not what the future holds, but I know Who also doesn't know much about it either." Contributors include the following: Thomas Ascol, John Frame, Phillip Johnson, Douglas Jones, Peter Leithart, John MacArthur Jr., Ben Merkle, Joost Nixon, Steve Schlissel, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Douglas Wilson.

Publishers Description
Open theists like to picture the God of classical Christian theism as a distant, despotic, micromanaging sovereign. The god of Open theism, on the other hand, is ready to enter into new experiences and to become deeply involved in helping us cope as we, with him, face things we simply did not know would happen. They insist that God has knowledge, but not all knowledge, certainly not knowledge of the future acts of free beings. Such Open theistic inferences reveal a deep-seated devotion to Enlightenment categories and narrow, unpoetic imaginations. Ideas have destinations, and one of the consequences of our trying to read the Scriptures without any poetry in our souls will be the eventual destruction of any possibility of ministering to souls. Just imagine the hymn writer trying to lift up the downcast - I know not what the future holds, but I know Who doesn't know much about it either.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Canon Press
Pages   230
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.88" Width: 5.89" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.82 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 7, 2001
Publisher   Canon Press
ISBN  1885767846  
ISBN13  9781885767844  

Availability  0 units.

More About Douglas Wilson

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Douglas Wilson (MA, University of Idaho) is a pastor, a popular speaker, and the author of numerous books. He helped to found Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, and is currently a senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrews College. He blogs regularly at

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1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > Religious Studies > Christianity
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Theism
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Bound Only Once: The Failure of Open Theism?

Failure... to love those with whom you disagree  Oct 23, 2003
This book is only worth one star, or even half. While the authors make a few thought-provoking arguments, these are obscured by the book's snide tone, sarcasm, and name-calling. How seriously can you take what it says, when, for example, one essay likens openness theologians to drag queens? This book is only fit for those who are convinced that the rightness of their doctrine exempts them from the command to love. Any Christian who is trying to make a serious assesment of open theism's claims would be well-advised to look elsewhere.
A Mixed Bag  May 12, 2003
Classical evangelicalism is to be congratulated for stepping up to the plate to answer the threat of open theism. In the last 7 years or so, nearly a dozen major books and many more journal articles and debates have been produced critiquing the open theist perspective. The result has been a growing awareness on the part of the larger body of Christ that open theism, while appealing to us in our humanness, is a fatally flawed theology of inconsistency that results in a different god and a different view of the world from the one articulated in Scripture.

This particular book is one of the books that have attempted to demonstrate the inadequacy of open theism. As I will mention below, there are several very good aspects of this book, and I believe that the parts of this book that are good are good enough to recommend the book. But on balance, and particularly in comparison to other evangelical books on this subject, it comes up short to a degree that a 3 star rating is called for.

Like other books critiquing open theism, this is a collaborative effort where specific authors are asked to write about specific topics related to open theism. As I will mention below, this approach comes back to haunt this book. But one of things about this that is good is that there are specific chapters written by specific authors that stand on their own as being outstanding and are fairly untainted by the other less than superb chapters written by others.

Of the 12 chapters of the book, about half of them deserve commendation. I found Jones' chapter on metaphor to be the most engaging and scholarly. In this chapter, he demonstrates quite effectively that the hermeneutic of open theism is unbiblical in its selective denial of the legitimacy of metaphor, and that this denial at its core, is the worst kind of illogic since it regularly results in the views of open theists being rampantly self defeating. A number of other books have tackled this foundational weakness of open theism, but in many ways, Jones' contribution here might be the best succinct critique available.

In addition, Frame provides a very good chapter on foreknowledge, although the reader should take Frame to heart when he comments in some of his footnotes that his 'Doctrine of God' book is really the place to go to get a more comprehensive and scholarly critique of the foreknowledge debate. MacArthur's chapter on the atonement was solid, though it could have stood for improvement. Johnson's chapter on impassibility is another very good chapter that attempts to take on what is perhaps the biggest area of theology where open theists believe they hold the best cards. Wilson's chapter on theological knowledge is also good and to some degree, makes up for his rather bad chapter on the loveliness of orthodoxy and the epilogue. Lastly, Ascol provides a good pastoral critique of open theism. These chapters, and particularly the chapters by Johnson and Jones, make the book worthy of purchase.

Given what I've said above, I was most dismayed that the quality of those chapters were comingled with other chapters that were as weak as they are. In many of the remaining chapters, the authors routinely set up strawmen to tear down (Sproul Jr. in particular was guilty of this), played a game of what I call 'scholarly demonization' where they attempted to lump open theists into other groups of thinkers that Christians more easily recognize as threats. And in the end, this fundamentally undermines the integrity of the book. One of the stated goals is that open theism is nothing new, but is merely the latest reincarnation of socinian and enlightenment thinking. A number of chapters are dedicated to attempting to prove this link. Those efforts are only partially successful in large part because other authors undermine this assertion by saying that open theism is actually a product of postmodern, feel-good thinking, which is antithetical to enlightenment modernism. The discerning reader might well conclude that the authors are not only unsure of exactly what they're trying to prove, but actively employ an 'any stick will do' approach to go after open theism, even if such an approach results in assertions flatly contradicting each other from chapter to chapter. I have respect for Douglas Wilson, who is the editor of this book. But he fails rather badly in his role here, and allows the book to become an inconsistent and emotionalistic rant at times, which is quite dubious since in many ways, this ends up only immitating many of the 'scholarly' works put out by open theists.

So overall, a mixed bag. A number of quality contributions that definitely deserve reading and contemplation are unfortunately mixed in with several chapters that frankly never should have made it to print. As a result, I recommend this book with the urgent caveat of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Bound Only Once (to fail miserably)  Apr 23, 2002
A book should succeed in its premise: John Armstrong, in the introduction makes the following statement: "Bound Only Once" is a useful, original, and helpful entry into this growing debate."
Sadly, I have never read words that were more off the mark.
Bound Only Once is basically a book that allows Calvinists to feel proud of how right they are and to cast judgment on the "fools" who would dare challenge their view of the Christian God. The true ironic thing is that as one reads it, one feels the fear behind the words. Calvinists recognize the hard truth that open theism is not going to go away and that it has true biblical support.
The authors of this book wade back and forth, covering so much unrelated ground sometimes you wonder if they understand that they are suppose to be talking about open theism, not what they want it to be (or think it is). Only John Frame actually takes a shot at relevant scripture, yet the points he makes are over shadowed by his and his fellow author's assumption of rightness.
And that is definitely the problem: the authors assume their position is right and when their position is unintelligble, well, hey, that's God and we just have to believe in him that way because that's what God has revealed (such a position would work better if one made an attempt at proving your position, something none of these authors even attempt). Such is the view thoroughout the book.
Finally, there is nothing but sadness surrounding this book. Sadness at opportunity missed at truly wanting to engage open theists, at opportunity lost that someone who isn't a Christian might pick up this book and mistakenly believe that all Christians treat others like this when they disagree with them. There is truly not an ounce of Christian love in this book. Definitely a book that one should read to see how not to treat others.
A final note: I apologize for not citing specific references to support my thoughts, but that would require quoting the entire work.
This book is so effective at decimating the speculative,
conjectural,unbiblical Open Theory of Bible interpretation that it elicits responses and reviews like the 'consistent non-evangelical' who can't handle Biblical Truth.

The essays of this book examine Open Theory from many different
angles and find them all woefully deficient in properly
understanding the Bible. One only has to check out Open Theorist
Clark Pinnock's 'Most Moved Mover'(see separate review) and the
quasi-mormon view postulated to see where Open Theory logically
and 'consistently' leads.

As has been well said, what good is it to be sympathetic to a
belief system that may seem superficially more consistent and
so-called logical only to find it is abysmally erroneous as a
whole and unable to account for maximum Biblical texts in a fair and plenary way? Such is the fatal flaw with Open Theory which
this book does a great job in thoroughly, almost embarrassingly,

Open Theory is a 'consistent' house of cards which collapses in
one breath of fresh air from correct biblical interpretation
and a bit of deeper thought applied to Who God is and What He can
know and When He can know it and how God's Unconditional
Sovereignty is compatible/complementary with mortal agency.

The reactions from liberal,uninformed,biblically deficient
critics who crave 'consistency' over correctness,cogency and
conformity to Scripture are in desperate need of reading
'Exegetical Fallacies' by D.A.Carson. In fact, Carson should come out with Volume II using Open Theory exclusively as how NOT to do Biblical Interpretation!

See Norm Geisler's 'Battle For God' and John Frame's 'No Other
God' for excellent elaboration of many points found in this book.
Bruce Ware's 'God's Lesser Glory' is also a powerful antidote
to the craving of 'new over true' of the Open Theory movement.

Inconsistent Calvnists attack consistent Open Theists.  Jan 31, 2002
The fervor over Open Theism is akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Until those opposed to O.T can agree among themselves their attempted refutations will hold little punch.

It is laughable to see the likes of Erickson, Sproul, McArthur,and Norman Geisler all gang up on Open Theism when they cannot even agree among themselves.

This latest attack on O.T. shows just how much hypocrisy, politics and inconsistency exists among Evangelicals. Watch out Gregory Boyd the inquisitors are coming! Only this time they wear the banner of Evangelicalism.

The introduction to "Bound only Once" is filled with the sort of banter and silliness one finds among children arguing for attention.

It is indeed a sad day when Evangelicals have to resort to this sort of theological arrogance and anecdotal fanaticism in order to defend the theological status quo.

These evangelicals fail time and again to make logical sense of their adherence to the contradictory notions of free will and determinism.

I read Erickson's middle of the road position before. His "Christian Theology" is a good example of the confusion created when one picks and chooses among the petals of the TULIP. Once again we have rationalist apologist Norman Giesler wanting it both ways opting for the silly idea that we are "Chosen but free."

I could go on. Suffice to say that Wilson's book is another sad tribute to Evangelicalism's confused state of affairs. A state of affairs were myopic ego centered personalities battle for theological supremacy while claiming to hold forth THE Biblical view of a God they cannot even agree upon.


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