I was once a conservative, but now find myself more often than not in between the two extremes of most issues. This blog is dedicated to those who live in the tension critical thought can bring. I am the pastor of Harmony Baptist Church in Morton Valley, Texas, and am currently attending Seminary at the Logsdon Theological Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Open What!?

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.


Blogger JC Baker said...

Great explaination of the basic idea of openness, Tank. I appreciate the way you have taken the approach of concentrating on what God does and can do, rather than on God's limitations. I will point my readers to your blog for their reading pleasure.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 12:53:00 PM

Blogger Tanktimus said...

Thank you JC.

Thursday, May 19, 2005 5:07:00 PM

Blogger tbd said...

Interesting post, I appreciate your thoughts. My struggle with open theism is that knowing isn't controlling. It seems like control, but it's not. If I tell you to pick a number b/n 1 and 10 and write a number on paper. If you pick 3 and 3 is on the paper, it doesn't mean that you couldn't have picked 4, it just means that if you had, I would have written 4. This is an issue of God's sovereignty. He knows how He wants things to unfold, He works in us to do so, w/o coercion. If we choose to go with Him, we can. If not, He'll fulfill His purposes another way. And just b/c God already knows the outcome doesn't mean we're w/o choice.

Friday, July 08, 2005 11:02:00 PM

Blogger Tanktimus said...


Open Theism is primarily a view for those who do not agree that free will and foreknowledge are compatible. If you can reconcile foreknowledge with free will, then there are other options. However, my problem is that if God already knows what I am going to do, I don't see how I have a realistic option of doing anything else; if God knows I'm going to pick three instead of four, how is the option of picking four truly open? If I did pick four, then God, who expected me to pick three, was wrong. Open theism would say that God knows all possible outcomes, and is prepared for me to pick either three or four, and can deal with both (or even if I picked five).


Thursday, July 14, 2005 10:32:00 AM

Blogger Carl Gobelman said...

Me again.

Problem with your view is it doesn't really matter what you or I think. What matters ia what the Bible says.

The problem with Open Theism (OT) is that it is trying to resolve a tension in the Bible that doesn't need to be resolved. Are you OK with the fact that God knows more than you do? I am. There are going to be things about God that I will never figure out this side of the grave. I'm OK with that.

The Bible clearly says that God knows the beginning from the end. It also states that we have a real choice. That is something that only God can figure out completely. Our job is to accept the tension. Your mind and my mind are too used to Western patterns of thinking, and our reflexive reaction is to attempt to resolve the tension. The ancient near Eastern mind thrived in the tension with God's sovereignty and our respnsibility.

Don't diminish God to assauge your inability to cope with divine truth.

Peace & God bless,

Tuesday, August 02, 2005 2:05:00 PM


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