God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Review: Creating God In The Image of Man

Book Review: "Creating God In The Image of Man: The New 'Open' View of God- Neotheism's Dangerous Drift" by Norman Geisler


Creating God In The Image of Man by Norman Geisler is a book focusing on the debate about Open Theism (called "neotheism" in this book). I've been going through some of the different views on the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's free will. Open theism is one of the options that falls on the extreme side of Arminianism.

The book is a short read at 145 page divided into seven chapters. Geisler includes two short appendices and a glossary for quick reference of terms used.

Chapter 1: The Chief Competitors to Christian Theism

In Chapter 1 Geisler explains why there are so many different worldviews and briefly looks at eight primary positions relating to God. These include: theism, deism, finite godism, atheism, pantheism, polytheism, panentheism, and neotheism (open theism). He explains that beliefs about the world have major consequences for how we act and uses a chart comparing theism, pantheism, and atheism to each other to illustrate the vast differences in beliefs.

Chapter 2: The Distinctives of Classical Christian Theism

Before he begins looking at neotheism, he takes Chapter 2 to explain classical Christian theism. Since the focus of the book is on the attributes of God and how He created and interacts with creation, Geisler's priority in this chapter is on the distinctives of God. He provides short explanations of God's aseity (self-existence), simplicity (indivisibility), necessity (non-contingency), immutability (unchangeability), impassability (without passion), eternity (nontemporality), and unity (oneness). He then spends some extra time on God's relationship to the world, His divine will, and His omniscience.

Chapter 3: Remaking God In Our Image

In Chapter 3 Geisler introduces the reader to a worldview that came prior to neotheism and led to it: panentheism (Process Theology). He compares and contrasts the view with classical theism. He looks specifically at God's attributes and the natures of creation, evil, and human free will. He looks at the positive arguments for panentheism including the alleged antinomies (in the theistic worldview) of creation, service, relationship, supreme reality, and contingent truth. Geisler offers a critique that points to panentheism's views that God is self-created and the implications of the removal of moral responsibility by the elimination of human free will, and the absolute claim that all truth is relative.

Chapter 4: The Biblical Claims of Neotheism

In Chapter 4 Geisler officially starts looking at neotheism. He begins the discussion by providing the biblical claims of its proponents. He explains the neotheistic views of God's attributes listed in Chapter 2 and provides how they claim that scripture supports these claims. The chapter contains a two-page chart that compares the attributes of God from the theistic, neotheistic, and panentheistic views, so that the reader can see where neotheism agrees and disagrees with each of the other views.

Chapter 5: The Theological Charges of Neotheism

In Chapter 5 Geisler provides the issues that neotheists say that make theism impossible, implausible, or just anti-Christian. The charges investigated are: that theism is rooted in Greek philosophy; a God who acts in time, God's knowledge of the temporal, creation of a temporal world, and the incarnation of Christ all imply or demand that God is temporal; "perfect being" theology is fallacious; an unchangeable God cannot interact with a changeable world; a loving God demands that God can change; foreknowledge of free acts requires determinism; human free will requires that God be able to change; God cannot possess unlimited omniscience; and that infallible knowledge eliminates free will.

Chapter 6: The Philosophical Coherency of Neotheism

In Chapter 6 Geisler puts neotheism to the philosophical coherency test. He begins by explaining that several neotheistic beliefs actually support theism rather than a coherent view of neotheism. He details these as being that God's eternality follows from the doctrine of "creation ex nihilo", the fact that God is transcendent implies that God is not limited by time (non-temporal), and the fact that God is a necessary being implies that He is pure actuality (no potentiality or "unchangeable"). Geisler also shows how several neotheistic beliefs lead the other direction: to panentheism. These would include: a temporal god is a created god, finite god, and spacial being; and denial of God's pure actuality, unchangeability and simplicity all imply that God is bipolar.

Chapter 7: The Practical Consequences of Neotheism 

Geisler concludes the book by looking at some of the practical consequences of neotheism. He explains that if neotheism is the correct: the predictive prophecy is fallible (this also affects apologetic arguments from fulfilled prophecy), the Bible is not infallible, the biblical test of a true prophet is not valid, God cannot guarantee ultimate victory over evil, God cannot make and us expect Him to know He can keep unconditional promises, assurance of salvation is impossible, our confidence that God can answer prayer is diminished, God can only guess who will be in Heaven- but universalism is true thus there is no need for missions.

Reviewer's Thoughts

Geisler treats the subject of neotheism fairly in this book. He looks at the arguments for it and the arguments against it. He looks at the biblical support for and against it. He clearly articulates logical problems and makes his arguments very clear. Ultimately he concludes that neotheism is incompatible with the vast majority of orthodox Christian thought about God, evil, and scripture.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Creating God in the Image of Man. I just finished reading another of Geisler's books (Chosen But Free) and this book has proved to be a great companion for understanding some of Geisler's arguments (those details will be included in that review). The two of these books are quite complementary to each other. I highly recommend people read this book, with or without the other. It is short but is full of great information and arguments to get you thinking (even if you don't hold to the Open Theistic view).

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  1. I thought Dr. Geisler wrote that book about what Fr. Brian Davies calls "theistic personalism," the kind of theism Drs. William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, an Richard Swinburne believe. Theistic personalists, including Craig and Plantinga, tend to reject the doctrine about divine simplicity partly because it tells us that God has no parts of any kind, not even metaphysical ones.

    Dr. David Bentley Hart seems right when he writes in his book "Experience of God," I think, that theistic personalism is virtually the same as atheism because anything with metaphysical parts needs a cause. If God has metaphysical parts, he needs a cause, and anyone who needs a cause can't be the greatest possible being.

    1. Thanks for your comment. How do you think that having parts necessitates a cause? As far as I am aware, the only prerequisite for the necessity of a cause is a beginning, which God (simple or not), does not have.

      This may be a really good question for Dr. Craig's "Question of the Week." I'm sure he would be delighted to address the concern, especially the idea that God would necessarily require a cause in virtue of His lack of simplicity. Check out this link to post to Dr. Craig (I did a search for "Divine Simplicity" in the link): http://www.reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/search/eyJyZXN1bHRfcGFnZSI6InF1ZXN0aW9uLWFuc3dlclwvc2VhcmNoIiwia2V5d29yZHMiOiJkaXZpbmUgc2ltcGxpY2l0eSJ9


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