After emphasizing the fact that God’s sovereignty is “exhaustive” (complete) and “meticulous” (covering every detail), Ware then plunges into the age-old problem of how human freedom can be compatible with divine sovereignty. If God is sovereign, how can individuals be free to act as they wish? His answer lies in what he calls “freedom of inclination” (a term also used by Jonathan Edwards). This contrasts with the Arminian view of “libertarian freedom,” which Ware calls “freedom of indifference.” Freedom “is not freedom of contrary choice but freedom to choose and act in accordance with what [we] most want . . . with what we are most strongly inclined to do” (p. 80).
In discussing the problem of evil in light of God’s sovereignty Ware points to “God’s control of evil as his ‘indirect-permissive’ divine agency” (p. 106). He cites several passages in support of God’s permissive control of evil: Genesis 31:7; Exodus 21:12–13; Mark 5:12–13; Acts 14:16; 16:7; 1 Corinthians 16:7; and Hebrews 6:3.
In light of open theism’s challenge of the doctrine that God has full knowledge of all things both actual and potential, Ware correctly affirms that God has “middle knowledge,” that is, He knows what would have occurred had circumstances been different (pp. 117–30).
In discussing “divine-human relationality” (chap. 5) Ware distinguishes between God’s “ontological immutability” and His “relational mutability.” As he explains, the latter is not a change in the Lord’s essential nature but a change in God’s “attitude and disposition toward his moral creatures in ways that are commensurate to changes that happen in them. When we change, say, from rebellion to repentance, God changes commensurately. . . . Likewise, when we turn from him in disobedience and rebellion, God’s attitude and disposition toward us changes from one of acceptance to one of disappointment and even anger” (p. 142).
The appendix, “Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical?” (reprinted from a journal article), presents a powerful defense of the classical view of God’s exhaustive knowledge of all things. This discussion includes twenty-six serious weaknesses of open theism’s contention that God does not fully know the future.
This outstanding discussion of divine providence and the compatibility of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility underscores in a refreshing way the majesty of God and its implications for the Christian life, including reasons for suffering and the place of prayer. Ware is senior associate dean and professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This is a companion volume to Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), a vigorous critique of open theism.