The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism

By Norman L. Geisler, H. Wayne House, and Max Herrera
Grand Rapids : Kregel (2001). 336 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
13.2 (Fall 2002) : 281-282

 Two well-known evangelicals and a graduate student (Herrera) at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, team for this volume. They reason that “openness of God” advocates have departed from orthodoxy. But more than this, they attempt to show in detail, in eleven well-organized chapters, that the God of traditional Christian belief does know all things ahead of time and does not change His purposes or need to learn anything when it happens.

The book’s positive thrust relates what God’s attributes mean, why believers can live confidently, and why it is vital to fight the battle against theories that represent God as far less than He is. The book begins with a section about neotheistic concepts of God by writers such as Gregory Boyd. Other chapters cover God’s omniscience, eternality, immutability, simplicity, impassibility, relatibility to sovereignty, dangers of neotheism, and the issue of whether neotheism is orthodox. Their decision is that neotheism is not orthodox. Appendix One reviews what church confessions taught; Appendix Two deals with whether neotheism accords with theological tradition (they say it does not); Appendix Three responds to Clark Pinnock’s book, Most Moved Mover, issued when The Battle for God was well along. Ending the work is a six-and-a-half-page bibliography, then a subject index.

The chapters offer positive biblical support for the aspects of God that are their focus, pertinent beliefs of early fathers, and later statements by leaders such as the Reformers. They observe neotheist arguments from Bible texts and respond to these. Such a gradual covering of so many issues and passages thoroughly stimulates the serious reader with its overall impact of varied reasoning. At the same time, users will find the book quite readable.

Key examples surface, such as Isaiah 38 and Jer 26:19 regarding whether God changes when He tells Hezekiah he is to die and then answers the king’s petition with fifteen more years to live. Did God in His plan face a new detail and change to deal with it? The authors contend that God, without changing His eternal decision about the length of Hezekiah’s life, did interact with him truthfully and from his standpoint grant him more years beyond that illness. They reason that God could not promise fifteen years if He did not know and control the future. They also cite biblical texts about God’s purpose being steadfast (e.g., Job 42:2; Pss 135:6; 125). When Abraham obeyed God (Gen 22:12) and God said, “Now I know that you fear me,” He did not learn something new. (1) He already knew the faith was real, yet tested him to show the reality; (2) if God knew the faith was real and was trying to gauge it, He did not even know the present sufficiency, and this would limit God more than free theists propose; (3) “Know” can mean such things as “confirm” His knowledge, know in a special sense even what one knows in another sense, as God has eternal knowledge.

The authors consider the following ideas of Pinnock to be unorthodox: that God has a body (320), that Scripture errs as in prophecies that were wrong or went unfulfilled (321), and that Jesus made a mistake in saying no stone would be left on another (Matt 24:2), yet some were (321-22).

The bibliography is lengthy, but does not cite some of the other best answers to “openness” theories. One can check Bruce Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2001); Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce Ware, editors, Still Sovereign (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995; chapters by various authors); and John Frame, No Other God (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2001). The last work came out too late to be consulted in The Battle for God. Among good articles defending the traditional view are: the series in The Master’s Seminary Journal 12/2 (Fall 2001); John MacArthur, “Open Theism’s Attack on the Atonement,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 12/1 (Spring 2001):3-13; and Mike Stallard, “The Open View of God: Does He Change?,” The Journal of Ministry & Theology 5/2 (Fall 2001):5-25.

What is the value of The Battle for God? It is a very useful compendium of neotheist claims that diminish God, with direct answers on a great number of aspects involved in the debate. It is well worth reading and absorbing.