What do you mean God doesn’t know the future? That is often the response when someone tries to explain the much debated concept of open theism. It’s name comes from the idea that God is open to the possibilities of the future, or in other words that God leaves the future open by not knowing exactly what will happen. Scholars began to question how people could be truly free if God knew the future. The reasoning went something like this: If God already knows what I’m going to have for dinner, then the only thing I can have for dinner is what God knows I will. Therefore, while I appear to have a choice, I do not really have freedom because there is only one possibility. For me to be truly free, God can not know for sure what I will choose. They began to consider the possibility that God does not know the future (or put a better way leaves the future open) so that we might freely choose how to live our life. That means there was the real possibility that Jesus could have decided not to go through with the crucifixion, that Peter really did not have to deny Jesus three times, that we were not predestined to sin and fall from grace.
That statement where many people depart from open theism is “God cannot.” How can we believe in a God who is not all powerful, who doesn’t know everything? Isn’t even considering the possibility a heresy?
However, for someone who does not believe free will and foreknowledge (the idea that God knows exactly what is going to happen) are compatible are forced to make a choice, either accept the idea that we are free and the future is open (open theism), that the future has been determined and we are not free (most forms of Calvinism).
I prefer to think of Open Theism as a series of what God can and does do, rather than the idea that God is incapable.
I believe God could know the future if God so chose, but in order to give us free will, God leaves the future open, and does not treat the future as though it were a sort of reverse memory, or reading ahead in the book, if you will. I believe that God knows all possible futures, and simply chooses not to know which path the future will take. God is also extremely intelligent, and, based on how well God knows us, probably pretty good at guessing what we will do in a situation.
I believe that God is still capable of accomplishing God’s will while leaving the future open. God works in the hearts of people through the Holy Spirit to lead them to accomplish God’s purposes on Earth, and when one person fails, another is led to take his or her place.
The God of Open Theism is a God who takes risks, who chooses the more difficult road of leaving the future open and allowing us to make mistakes.
I’m sure you’re wondering right now, what does the Bible have to say about all of this? Well, in some places it speaks of God knowing exactly everything about the future, and in other places it speaks of Moses changing God’s mind, of God being surprised at the conduct of the people of Israel, of God condemning Kings and then recanting after those kings repent. The simple truth is, either view has strengths and weaknesses in scripture, and responsible examination of the Bible could lead someone to either conclusion. You will have to decide for yourself which is right.