A couple of weeks ago, James White announced that the debate thesis proposed by the Caner brothers was the following:
Resolved: That God is an Omnibenevolent God to all of humanity through salvation and opportunity.
James White said, “The Caners are insisting upon using a thesis statement that has no meaning. It is not even written in proper English. It could be used and defended by a Unitarian Universalist. They refuse to use a thesis statement I have proposed that is clear and unambiguous.” Tom Ascol also replied thus, “Now, if you can explain exactly what is being asserted here, please let me know.” White and Ascol are no unlearned men, so when I heard that they were unaware of the term of “omnibenevolence” and its usage, I thought I would do some investigation and research on the subject.
Interestingly enough, not a single evangelical theologian has addressed the doctrine of omnibenevolence nor can you find it in any theological dictionary. This is precisely because it has not been considered historically a theological term. Rather, its basis is philosophically grounded. A brief description is provided by Wikipedia, although its weak definitions and descriptions show just how vague and nondescript this term really is. So where does the Caner’s get the idea of “an omnibenevolent God?” Here you must delve into the Arminian playbook (i.e. Geisler’s
It just so happens that a great deal of my personal research and studies is in the area of religious pluralism, inclusivism, and open theism. I don’t claim to have exhausted all the resources available, but I can say that the only folks who have argued for an omnibenevolent God besides contemporary Arminianism are Open Theists/Inclusivists and Universalists. This puts the Caners in a peculiar predicament. Their premise is not even considered orthodox to begin with (to a large degree). Furthermore, whatever basis is given for omnibenevolence in current writing is mere synthesis of philosophical assertions. I personally don’t know if I want to make a thesis statement that is unfounded in church history, unwritten by evangelical scholars, defended by heretical teachings, and supported by mere philosophical assertions. But then again, I am not the dean of theology either. I am just a seminary student trying to do my homework.
I have laid out a lengthy outline for the purpose of providing a sustained research and investigation into the idea of an omnibenevolent God. I also will be ask leading evangelical scholars about this idea and trying to ascertain some contemporary analysis and input from them as well. At this point, I am not planning on providing a critique publicly because of the upcoming debate and the possibility of this thesis being upheld (at least by the silent treatment). I will, however, provide quotes and annotations that I think are related to this issue. If you have any sources or input dealing with the topic of omnibenevolence, please let me know.