In this video, Michael Horton and Fred Sanders discuss a growing trend to pull away from classical theism and move toward a more immanent view of God, seeing him as evolving throughout the course of history.
The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.
Michael Horton: I don’t know. Would you say that the influence of Hegel has been sort of a profound lingering influence on theology, longterm, especially since Barth?
Fred Sanders: Yeah, I mean, you could generalize because a lot of people who haven’t read Hegel and don’t intend to nevertheless have picked up from the atmosphere a commitment to history, by which I mean sort of the metaphysical power of history that nothing really is except that which becomes. It’s as people start kind of thinking through that and apply it to Christology and then apply it, of all things, to the doctrine of God, and want to start thinking about a, it’s a mouthful, but a historicized ontology. Like when they think about God, he’s a being. What kind of being? Well, the only kind of being I can imagine is a historical one.
Michael Horton: Evolving and…
Fred Sanders: Changing and moving forward.
Michael Horton: So his own identity is wrapped up in mine?
Fred Sanders: Yes. That’s the claim.
Michael Horton: He becomes only to the extent that I’m a part of that process and vice versa.
Fred Sanders: Yeah. This is not like a front-page controversy that people are arguing about and know they’re arguing about, but it shows up in the intuitions that surface because what’s seductive about it, I think, is certainly evangelicals want a God who is in relation to them, who is involved, who is the God who acts, and super intense, a covenant history, and is intimately involved. It’s easy to accidentally slip over into thinking that God simply is a developing being involved in and, I would say, immersed in history. If you’re alert to that, doctrinally, you can kind of hear a splash at some point where God has just gone underwater and been immersed in the course of history. But people who aren’t doctrinally sensitive to that, who maybe haven’t seen it in Hegel or in Moltmann maybe don’t hear the splash. They don’t hear that dreaded kerplunk that lets you know God has gone underwater.
Michael Horton: How do we respond to people, Fred, who say, “Well, the alternative is a God you can’t pray to, a God you’re not in . . .” you know, the critique of classical theism? How do you generally respond to folks who have sort of . . . where God has taken that plunge for them?
Fred Sanders: Well, I think it’s hard because you don’t want to just pooh-pooh that and say, “Don’t worry about it. Go totally classical with God and be really austere, and put God way, way up high. Don’t sweat it. You’re supposed to be out of touch with him,” because there’s some people who you really need to lean in there and say, “Oh, that’s a problem if you’re thinking of God as unrelated.” You do need medicine for that. The medicine is not to pull God off the throne and immerse him in the course of world history and deny that he has these high, mind-blowing attributes like aseity, imperfection. So I don’t have a one set angle of approach for that.