Is it true you’re an “Open Theist” and that you don’t think God knows the future perfectly?

I am an “Open Theist” – though I honestly don’t care for the label, because as I’ll show, the uniqueness of this view isn’t in what it says about God but in what it says about the nature of reality. (I think it would be better to call us something like “Open Futurists.”)

In any event, I and other Open Theists absolutely affirm God’s “omniscience.” God knows all of reality perfectly, exactly as it is. Open Theists differ from traditional theists not in our understanding of the perfection of God’s knowledge but in our understanding of the reality that God perfectly knows. The difference comes down to this: we believe that the reality God perfectly knows includes possibilities. Since God gave us free will, we believe some of the future is left up for us to decide. We may freely choose one course of action or we may choose another. To this extent the future is “open.” We base this view primarily on Scripture, since the Bible consistently ascribes free will to people and often presents the future as partly open (see my book God of the Possible for a brief presentation of the scriptural portrayal of the future as partly open).

So, Open Theism does not in any way limit God’s knowledge. Precisely because God’s knowledge is perfect, he knows possibilities as possibilities. (If he knew them any other way, his knowledge would be mistaken.)

Now, does this mean that God doesn’t know the future perfectly? Not at all, unless you assume at the start that the future is exhaustively settled (that is, unless you assume at the start that Open Theism is wrong). If the future is “out there” as an exhaustively settled reality then of course something would be lacking in God’s knowledge if he didn’t know it. But leveling this charge against Open Theists is begging the question, since this is the very view of the future we deny. If one rather sees the future as partly composed of possibilities, then God knows the future perfectly precisely because he knows it as partly composed of possibilities.

Think of it this way. Suppose I’m the author of one of those Choose Your Own Adventure children’s books. In these books, various possible story lines are laid out, but the reader gets to choose which of the possible story lines they want to read. Now, do you think it would be accurate to say that I, the author of this book, didn’t know the future of each of the characters of my book perfectly simply because I let the reader decide which of the possible futures a character has? Of course not! As the author, I know all the possible story lines for each character, so of course I know each character’s future perfectly.

So it is in Open Theism. If you grant that the future is partly comprised of possibilities, you can say, “God knows the future perfectly.”

Related Reading

What makes the claim that Jesus rose from the dead unique?

Question: What makes the story of Jesus’ resurrection different from other pagan resurrection stories, such as those surrounding the Egyptian god Osiris? Answer: In Lord or Legend? (and more academically, The Jesus Legend), Paul Eddy and I address this, and many other, objections to faith in Jesus. I encourage you to check either of these…

Tags: ,

Changing Beliefs

Stephen Mattson is a follower of ReKnew and a member of Woodland Hills Church who posted a piece on Sojourners titled Christians: It’s NOT a Sin to Change Your Beliefs. He points out that doubt and questions are a natural and needed part of any Christian’s life, and our community needs to change the ways we…

Good From Evil

The Bible is very clear that God has nothing to do with evil. There is “no darkness” in God. (I Jn 1:5). Far from intentionally bringing about evil, God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Hab. 1:13). All evil, therefore, must be ultimately traced back to decisions made by free agents other than…

God of Sense and Traditions of Non-Sense

As the title suggests, in his book, God’s Problem: How The Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer, Bart Ehrman argues that the Bible has nothing compelling to say about the problem of evil. Well, I just put down a beautifully written four-hundred and fifty page book that compellingly argues…

Dealing With Objections to Open Theism, Part II

There are four major objections to Open Theism. In this post, we are dealing with the third and fourth. (See yesterday’s post to read about the first two.) Objection #3: God cannot foreknow only some of the future. It is often argued that for God to be certain of anything about the future, he must be…


Problems with the Simple Foreknowledge View

Some have proposed a model of divine foreknowledge which allows them to avoid the dilemma of affirming either that God creates people for the purpose of sending them to hell (Calvinism) or that he creates them without certain knowledge of their fate (open theism). In this alternative view God knows that certain individuals will be…