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.

5reasonsOpenTheism

5 Ways the Bible Supports Open Theism

Open Theism refers to the belief that God created a world in which possibilities are real. It contrasts with Classical Theism which holds that all the facts of world history are eternally settled, either by God willing them so (as in Calvinism) or simply in God’s knowledge (as in Arminianism). Open Theists believe God created humans and angels with free will and that these agents are empowered to have “say so” in what comes to pass. In Open Theism, therefore, what people decide to do genuinely affects God and affects what comes to pass. In particular, by God’s own sovereign design, things really hang on whether or not God’s people pray.

The primary reason Open Theists believe what they do is because they find that Scripture presents the future as partly open. While there are certainly passages that depict God predetermining and foreknowing some aspects of the future, there are at least as many passages depicting God as facing a future partly comprised of possibilities. A small sampling of these sorts of passages are the following:

  1. The Lord frequently changes his mind in the light of changing circumstances, or as a result of prayer (Exod. 32:14; Num. 14:12–20; Deut. 9:13–14, 18–20, 25; 1 Sam. 2:27–36; 2 Kings 20:1–7; 1 Chron. 21:15; Jer. 26:19; Ezek. 20:5–22; Amos 7:1–6; Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10). At other times he explicitly states that he will change his mind if circumstances change (Jer. 18:7–11; 26:2–3; Ezek. 33:13–15). This willingness to change is portrayed as one of God’s attributes of greatness (Joel 2:13–14; Jonah 4:2). If the future were exhaustively and eternally settled, as classical theism teaches, it would be impossible for God to genuinely change his mind about matters.
  1. God sometimes expresses regret and disappointment over how things turned out—even occasionally over things that resulted from his own will. (Gen. 6:5–6; 1 Sam. 15:10, 35; Ezek. 22:29–31). If the future was exhaustively and eternally settled, it would be impossible for God to genuinely regret how some of his own decisions turned out.
  1. At other times God tells us that he is surprised at how things turned out because he expected a different outcome (Isa. 5:3–7; Jer. 3:6-7; 19–20). If the future were eternally and exhaustively settled, everything would come to pass exactly as God eternally knew or determined it to be.
  1. The Lord frequently tests his people to find out whether they’ll remain faithful to him (Gen. 22:12; Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:2; 13:1–3; Judges 2:20–3:5; 2 Chron. 32:31). If the future were eternally and exhaustively settled, God could not genuinely say he tests people “to know” whether they’ll be faithful or not.
  1. The Lord sometimes asks non-rhetorical questions about the future (Num. 14:11; Hos. 8:5) and speaks to people in terms of what may or may not happen (Exod. 3:18–4:9; 13:17; Jer. 38:17–18, 20–21, 23; Ezek. 12:1–3). If the future were exhaustively and eternally settled, God could never genuinely speak about the future in terms of what “may” or “may not” happen.

So the Bible presents God as interacting with a world that is moving into a partly open future. This doesn’t mean that God could ever be caught off guard or that his overall purposes for the world are ever threatened. Because they believe God is infinitely intelligent, Open Theists affirm that God anticipates each and every possibility from the foundation of the world, as though it were a certainty. Whatever comes to pass, God has a plan in place to respond to it, bringing good out of evil when this is necessary. But, unlike Classical Theists, Open Theists are confident that God is so smart, he can sovereignly rule the world effectively without needing to have everything pre-settled in his will or mind ahead of time.

__
art: “Trees by the Gein at Moonrise
by: Piet Mondrian
date: 1907 – 1908

Related Reading

Free Will: What does Quantum Theory suggest?

Bet you didn’t think we’d be going here. Greg discusses how quantum theory supports the idea of free will.

What is the significance of Genesis 2:19 ?

“So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was the name.” God wanted Adam to have authority over the animal kingdom…

Topics:

Old and New

Old & New – Round 3 Trailer by Fred Sprinkle. Our good friend Jim LePage is a graphic artist with amazing talent. Some of you are familiar with him via his work for Woodland Hills or through his amazing Word designs in which he came up with a graphic piece for each book of the Bible.…

When the Bible has Errors

In the previous post, we dealt with the question of why we are able to trust Scripture. But we need to explore this further because if you read the Bible carefully, you will find parts that look erroneous. Some aspects of the Bible don’t line up with what we know from history and science. Let’s…

How do you respond to 2 Timothy 1:9–10?

“…this grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus…” Those who hold that the future is eternally settled and that God knows it as such sometimes argue that God had to foreknow who would believe in order…

Does God Change His Mind?

Classical theologians usually argue that texts that attribute change to God describe how he appears to us; they do not depict God as he really is. It looks like God changed his mind, but he really didn’t. Unfortunately for the classical interpretation, there are many texts that do not say, or remotely imply, that it…