A good friend asked me today what I thought about openness theology. This was my response.
This would be a long discussion, but in general I think both sides get this wrong by allowing outside concepts (by which I mean outside the revelation of God in Jesus Christ found in Scripture) to govern how we conceive of God and how we frame theological discussions. The openness people are as guilty as those they oppose of continuing to follow the framework of Greek philosophy. (Just like postmodernity is still bound by the concepts of modernity; rejection of an idea by itself does not free you from the idea.)
What if, instead of beginning either with the standard attributes (the omnis, immutability, impassibility) as most conservative theologies do (both Protestant and Catholic), OR beginning with a rejection of these (as openness or process theologies do), what if we began with the most certain fact we have: the God we are dealing with is the One Jesus calls “Father,” the One whom Jesus claimed his followers had already seen in Jesus himself. What if we then went on to describe this Father as the God of Israel – the One who related so openly to Moses, to Elijah, to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, etc. There is so much we can know and deduce about this God, and almost none of it fits easily into the Greek framework that so many of us still insist on using.
I think the main reason is because we are more like the children of Israel than we are like Moses. This God scares us to death. We would much rather deal with concepts we can understand, golden calves we can mold, rather than climb the scary mountain topped with holy fire.
Theology can all too quickly devolve from a worthwhile quest to understand God better into a religiously cloaked barrier that insulates us from the God who seeks us. Don’t let false questions and categories forged from others’ melted down concepts cloud your vision of the Father of Jesus Christ.
I was reading something today that encouraged leaders to be patient with difficult people, specifically with people who ‘get in their way.’ On the surface, this made sense to me, but at the same time it bothered me. As I thought about why, I came to this conclusion.
I think patience is something leaders try to lean on when their focus is really on the wrong thing. These leaders think it is important to be patient with people who are not fully on board with the vision they have cast, are not fully heading in the right direction, are basically not following well. The problem with this, as I see it, is those leaders are too focused on their vision, on what they want to see done, on something other than the people they are supposed to be leading.
Having a vision is important for any leader, but it cannot take the place of that leader’s understanding of his or her purpose and mission, which is not to achieve some goal or realize some vision – it is to lead people. The purpose and mission of those people is the goal and vision, but the leader’s is the people themselves. So when I see leaders getting frustrated with people (because those folks need some leadership) I know that leader has yet to understand that his or her very existence as a leader depends on such people who need to be led.
The leader is getting frustrated with what is really the core of his or her job – to lead people. That would be like a chef who gets frustrated that food needs cooking or that people are hungry. If the food didn’t need cooking or if people weren’t hungry, we wouldn’t need you, chef. If not for the people you need patience for, i.e., those who need leading, we wouldn’t need you, leader.
Leaders don’t need patience nearly as much as they need to care more about the people they are leading than anything they want to achieve. Develop your people into achievers, then you will have led well.
[Btw, I’m not saying leaders don’t need patience at all (despite my attempt at a provocative title), but they don’t need to use patience as a cop out merely to tolerate people they can’t stand.]