Response to Frame’s Criticism of Dolezal on Theistic Mutualism

For Frame, God does change in view of the actions of his creatures.

If Frame is indeed going to make a convincing case against Classical Theism in Dolezal’s model, this is most certainly not it. There must first be a clear demonstration that Frame has a groundwork in Patristic and scholastic thought on these issues before his critiques can be taken seriously by proponents of Classical Theism. Perhaps this article will strengthen his base, but it will certainly not convince anyone who is sympathetic to Dolezal’s view.

Among contemporary Christian thinkers who have promoted a return to the Classical Theistic conceptions of deity, such as an adherence to divine simplicity, immutability, and other attributes is Reformed Baptist theologian James Dolezal. His doctoral dissertation, published as God Without Parts received quite a bit of attention as a philosophical and theological defense of the simplicity of God. His recent publication All that is in God has similarly resulted in a number of responses, defenses, and criticisms, which will surely lead to further responses in the future.

His latest book is a critique of what he labels, “Theistic mutualism,” which identifies God as one who changes within his relationship to creatures. The phrase itself is quite broad, and it covers a number of thinkers with varying views. In particular, Dolezal criticizes those within evangelicalism who are opposed to Classical Theism. Criticisms include thinkers such as Bruce Ware, William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, and his doctoral adviser Scott Oliphint. In a recent article, John Frame has responded to Dolezal’s argument and (in my opinion) has done so rather poorly.

Frame accuses Dolezal of standing against a broad consensus of contemporary evangelical scholars of which, apparently, he is not properly respectful. It is a hard sell, however, for Frame to pull the “consensus” card on such an issue. Perhaps it is the case today that a majority of evangelical philosophers and scholars reject several tenets of Classical Theism. Such a consensus does not mean, however, that Classical Theistic concepts have somehow been overthrown through careful philosophical study and examination.

Rather, this simply demonstrates the confused state of contemporary evangelical theology. In the broad scheme of Christian thought, one could hardly argue for any kind of Theistic Mutualism as a consensus view, rather than a recent innovation which just so happens to coincide with a rejection of classical philosophy. I would certainly rather stand on the side of St. Augustine, John of Damascus, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Johann Gerhard than that of Craig and Oliphant. That is not to say that these thinkers have not made valuable contributions to Christian philosophy (they have!) but that they are in a clear minority on these issues.

Following this consensus criticism, Frame bluntly states that in Dolezal’s view, proponents of TM (Theistic Mutualism; not Transcendental Meditation) promote “vile heresy.” This seems to be a clear attempt at poisoning the well, as I have never heard Dolezal refer to such writers as vile heretics or anything of the sort. Rather, he sees departures from classical Christian thought as extremely problematic, and he should indeed take issues related to the doctrine of God so seriously!

Read More