Conclusion: Fretheim’s theology in a nuce, easily understandable and brief, an illuminating and challenging take on the God-human relationship.
Terence Fretheim is considered an Old Testament scholar who has significantly influenced Open Theist thinkers. This books shows why. It is a pleasant read and quite brief (144 pages), written in rather easy language and illustrated with many examples. Hence, one does not have to be a “hardcore theologian” to understand it. Furthermore, the book summarises Fretheim’s theology very well (others who know his work better than I do have said so – see endorsements – and he very frequently points to his other works in the footnotes. Actually, he rarely quotes anybody else, which might be considered a matter of regret).
The book revolves around ten statements or propositions that define what kind of relationship God has or wants with creation, especially humans. I believe that this is very important since relationship has become some kind of Christian shibboleth that needs definition; this is what Fretheim attempts. I also like his phrasing as he echos the famous passage in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that…” in every statement, showing that John was pointing to relationship between humans and the divine.
His ten theses are as follows:
1. God so enters into relationships that God will be absolutely faithful to the commitments God has made.
2. God so enters into relationships that God is concerned about our entire selves.
3. God so enters into relationship that God will be present with God’s creatures at all times and in all places.
4. God so enters into relationships that God is genuinely affected by what happens to the relationship.
5. God so enters into relationships that the human will can stand over against the will of God.
6. God so enters into relationships that God will be active in the life of the world.
7. God so enters into relationships that God recognizes the need for a healthy “space” between those who are in relationship.
8. God so enters into relationships that God is not the only one who has something important to say.
9. God so enters into relationships that God is not the only one who has something important to do and the power with which to do it.
10. God so enters into relationships that the future is not all mapped out.
I do not want to go into the specifics of his statements, but overall they are very interesting and worth considering (clearly his conclusions are sometimes quite radical and a matter of discussion). He argues primarily from the Old Testament which is fitting for an OT scholar, however, from time to time he makes well-placed connections towards the NT. That said, it still “feels” a bit onesided and it would have been nice to give the overall biblical view more space. While the book is already quite short, Fretheims propositions sometimes appear like repetitions since the content overlaps very much. I even found the first part “God and Relationship” being a very good overview and its 30 pages already bring most of his main points.