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.”

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