We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

Does The Open View Limit God?

Image by malias via Flickr

Image by malias via Flickr

Suppose you and I both agree that God is omniscient and thus knows all of reality, but we disagree over, say, the number of trees on a certain plot of land. I say there are 1,300 and you say there are 2,300. You wouldn’t say that I am limiting God because he knows fewer trees in my view than he knows in your view. For the issue, of course isn’t about God’s knowledge at all; it’s about how many trees there are on this plot of land.

This illustrates precisely what is going on regarding the openness debate. The issue is not about God’s knowledge at all. Everyone agrees he knows reality perfectly. The issue is the content of the reality God perfectly knows—how many things and what kind of things there are on the “plot of land” we call the future.

If everything in the land of the future is settled, then we must all grant that God would perfectly know this. But if there are fewer things in the land of the future that are definite and more things that are possible, then we must grant that God would perfectly know this. It would be illegitimate for the former group to accuse the latter group of limiting God on the grounds that they deny some “definite realities” in the future. So too, it would be illegitimate for the latter group to accuse the former group of limiting God on the ground that they deny some “possibilities” in the future. The issue is not about the scope or perfection of God’s knowledge at all!

Many evangelicals have accused open theists of limiting God by denying that he foreknows the future as exhaustively settled because they assume that the future is exhaustively settled. If this assumption is granted, then of course anyone who denied that God foreknew the future as exhaustively settled would be limiting God. But open theists do not share this assumption. The accuracy of the classical assumption that the future is exhaustively settled needs to be examined in the light of Scripture (Something I’ve done in God of the Possible and Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.) Construing this issue as a debate about the perfection of God’s knowledge only serves to cloud the issue and instills fear in the minds of people.

Instead of limiting God, the open view actually depends upon the infinite intelligence of God. We might imagine God as something like an infinitely intelligent chess player. I am told that the average novice chess player can think ahead three or four possible moves. If I do A, for example, my opponent may do B, C, or D. I could then do E, F, or G, to which he may respond with H, I, or J. By contrast, some world-class chess masters can anticipate up to thirty combinations of moves. Now consider that God’s perfect knowledge would allow him to anticipate every possible move and every possible combination of moves, together with every possible response he might make to each of them, for every possible agent throughout history. And he would be able to do this from eternity past.

Isn’t a God who is able to know perfectly these possibilities wiser than a God who simply foreknows or predetermines one story line that the future will follow? And isn’t a God who perfectly anticipates and wisely responds to everything a free agent might do more intelligent than a God who simply knows what a free agent will do? Anticipating and responding to possibilities takes problem-solving intelligence. Simply possessing a crystal ball vision of what’s coming requires none.

—Adapted from God of the Possible, pages 125-128

Related Reading

How do you respond to Genesis 16:12?

The Lord describes Ishmael as “…a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” According to most Old Testament scholars the Lord is describing Ishmael’s descendants as much as he is describing Ishmael himself. The Lord foresaw that the nation which would descend from Ishmael (cf. 21:18) would…

Sermon Clip: Does Romans 9 predestine you to Hell?

Did God predestine you to Hell? Can he even do that? In this short sermon clip, Greg Boyd talks about his own struggles when trying to understand Romans 9 which on the surface seems to imply that God determines who goes to heaven and hell. In the full sermon, Greg takes a deep look at…

Open2013

As I’m sure many of you know, the understanding of the Christian faith and the model of the Christian church is in the process of being transformed. All around the globe, and in a multitude of different ways, we are seeing new wine being poured out and old wine skins bursting apart. Many of us…

How can you put your trust in a God who’s not in control of everything?

Question: I read your book Is God to Blame? and found it to be very compelling. It’s rocking my world. But I’m also finding I’m now having trouble trusting God like I used to. I used to believe that God ordained or at least foreknew all that was going to happen. Now I’m questioning this, and I’m wondering…

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…

Topics:

Authentic Theology

So much theology does not do justice to the reality of the world. Any theology that’s going to claim to be authentic must be done on the edge of a mass grave of gassed children. If we can’t state our theology there, then it’s useless. We must never block out the pain of this world.…