Open Theism

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Open Theism – The Definition
Open Theism is a theological position that attempts to explain the concept of God’s foreknowledge. The essential question of Open Theism is, “Does God know the future?” For nearly 2000 years of church history, the answer has been almost universally, “Yes! Of course God knows the future.” Open Theists today, however, claim that this view of God’s foreknowledge is based more on philosophy than the actual teaching of Scripture.

Open Theism – The Scriptures
A verse of Scripture that Open Theism often points to is Genesis 6:6 (KJV), “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at his heart.” The argument goes like this -- God did not know how wicked mankind would become, therefore He “repented,” wishing that He had never made man. The problem with this interpretation is this: the fact that God was grieved at the wickedness of humanity does not indicate He did not know it would happen. It is entirely logical that God could know something was going to occur, yet still be saddened when it did in fact occur. Further, if God did not know how wicked humanity would become, why would He provide Jesus as the sacrificial lamb “before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)?

Another common verse in Open Theism is Genesis 22:12 (NIV), “‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ He said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’” In Genesis 22:2, God had told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. In verse 12, it seems like God did not know whether Abraham would obey Him or not. Is this accurate? If God did not know that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, why would God have sent the angel to stop him (Genesis 22:11)? Why would God have prepared a ram ahead of time (Genesis 22:13)? Abraham had obeyed everything God had ever told him to do. Why would God doubt Abraham’s obedience for this command? God knew absolutely what Abraham would do. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to “stretch” Abraham’s faith, and to give a powerful example of the sacrifice God already knew He would make -- His Son, Jesus Christ.

A third “proof-text” for Open Theism is Jeremiah 7:31 (see also Jeremiah 19:5 and Jeremiah 32:35), “They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire -- something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.” According to Open Theism, God did not know that the Israelites would practice these evil acts. However, that is not what Jeremiah 7:31 is saying. The meaning is this -- God never commanded the Israelites to do these things...and it never even entered God’s mind that the Israelites should do these things. If God did not know ahead of time, why would He have commanded against it some 800 years earlier (Deuteronomy 18:10)?

The overarching thesis of Open Theism is this --

  1. God gave human beings a true free will.
  2. If God knows the future, human beings cannot truly be free.
  3. Therefore, God cannot know the future.
It is a frequent misunderstanding that Open Theism denies God’s sovereignty and/or omniscience. While some more extreme elements of Open Theism may deny God’s sovereignty, the majority of Open Theists do not. Open Theism claims to believe in God’s omniscience by arguing that the future is unknowable, therefore God knows everything that is possible to be known.

Open Theism – The Correction
The primary failure of Open Theism is that it is an attempt to understand an infinite God with a finite mind. Yes, God has given mankind a “free will.” Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows the future. These two truths seem contradictory, but in the mind of God, they are not. The only contradiction is in our failure to comprehend God and His plan.

Here are a few Scriptures and concepts that clearly demonstrate that Open Theism is unbiblical:

Scriptures:

Psalm 139:4, “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD”

Psalm 139:16, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Concepts:

How could God make so many exact predictions about Jesus Christ if He does not know the future?

How could God guarantee our salvation if He does not know the future?

How could Jesus promise that He would return if He does not know the future?

Learn More About God’s Foreknowledge!


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