How Consequentialism and Open Theism Shaped C. Peter Wagner’s Anthropological Paradigm
In 2001, during the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) discussions on openness theology, Christianity Today published a two-part debate on open theism titled “Does God Know Your Next Move.” This article ultimately convinced C. Peter Wagner that open theism provided a theological paradigm that accurately reflected his approach throughout his career as a leader in the Church Growth, Third Wave, and New Apostolic Reformation movements. This session reintroduces openness theology to ETS by examining how open theism laid the foundation for Wagner’s Commissional Pragmatic Consequentialism and its subsequent impact on his anthropological paradigm and practices related to the Great Commission. Wagner’s ultimate goal was to create disciples by any means necessary, enabling God to establish his will on earth.
During this session, I will propose three terms to articulate Wagner’s theological convictions and practices: divine interventional mutability, cooperationism, and commissional pragmatic consequentialism.
- Divine interventional mutability describes God’s volitional act of intervening in the ways that he does only after considering particular prayers of his people—prayers that he does not know prior to believers’ praying but only learns of at the initiation of the prayers themselves.
- Cooperationism is defined as the theological assertation that humanity cooperates and partners with God to determine future events. Cooperationism manifests as the functional outworking of the theological conviction that God has (1) a limitation on divine foreknowledge and (2) divine interventional mutability.
- Commissional pragmatic consequentialism describes the justification of the use of pragmatism by whatever means necessary for the teleological commitment to accomplish the Great Commission, which seeks the making of disciples to enact the will of God in order to take dominion of the earth, through cooperationism, so that all things can be restored to Christ and usher in the second advent.
According to Wagner, an abundance of disciples leads to a greater realization of God’s will, and Christ can return once all things have come under his authority. Wagner continuously adapted his discipleship practices throughout his career, basing changes on the phenomenological success of his methods. In conclusion, Wagner’s means of discipleship were rooted in the contextual narrative of open theism all along.
This session draws on writings from C. Peter Wagner, John Sanders, Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and Bruce Ware. By examining the career of C. Peter Wagner, this session offers scholars and theologians a framework for articulating the influence of open theism on anthropology and the Great Commission.