As I continue to work through Creation Set Free (a book on open theology & science), I am coming to hate the word “relationality (R),” for two main reasons. First, on a purely linguistic level, it is annoying to me that in this work R only refers to libertarian free will interactions. While I in general share the Open Theist’s (OT) disdain for a coercive construct of God’s relationship to the world, if God forces some-one/thing to perform an action, he is still “relating” to them/it. Just because certain modes of R are abominable to OT doesn’t mean they can posit a definition that removes them from discussion. This seems akin to the type of “winning the argument by definition” tactic that OT decry in many Reformed theologian’s use of the word sovereignty.
Second, R functions as a central concept in their system, but has a huge “blindspot”: the relationality of the Triune God. I grant that some open theists have realized this & are trying to incorporate God’s Triunity into their models. To do so they appeal to the oft-used concepts of perichoresis & social models of the Trinity. While some OT might be genuinely wrestling with the role God as Trinity plays in their understanding of God’s relationality, for many it is merely window dressing. What seems to be of primary importance is “God’s” relation to creation. However, to allow the God-world relation priority rather than grounding a theology of R in the doctrine of God seems to be disastrous methodologically.
Case in point: in Thomas Jay Oord’s essay, he advocates the rejection of creatio ex nihilo, based in part on his sympathy with the contention of process thinker Catherine Keller that “God always relates to or enmeshes in the creativity of others (44).” The point here is not whether creatio ex nihilo is tenable, but that the driving force behind Oord’s rejection of it is his conviction that “there has never been a time in which God has not provided freedom and agencies to the creatures and creation that God creates (50, emphasis mine).” This demonstrates that he understands R to refer to how God must relate to his creation (granting them autonomy), & it is this conviction that exerts a controlling influence on how he understands God’s creative act and also renders God’s Triune nature accidental to understanding God’s relationship to his creation. Whenever an aspect of theology is given such weight as to demand that traditional doctrines are discarded/reinterpreted before the doctrine of God has been explored, implying that God’s revealed nature as Trinity is inconsequential to the discussion, then I submit that one has taken a wrong turn.
So, I could just be cranky tonight (it is late), but I think that I’ve read enough about R for awhile.