This is the last in a series of four posts on the objections made to open theism that I identified in the first post at Open Theism, “An Introduction to Open Theism.” It expands on this passage in the post:
Further [opponents of open theism] charge that [open theism] cannot account for biblical prophecy and that it weakens our confidence in God’s ability to accomplish His purposes and to guide us.
Classical theists attribute prophecies–divinely inspired utterances or revelations–foretelling what is going to happen in the future to God’s foreseeing the future because He foreordains everything that happens (Calvinists) or because He sees past, present, and future as an eternal present (Arminians). However open theists claim that God can’t foresee the part of the future brought about by humans exercising their free will. Thus classical theists charge that open theists can’t account for Biblical prophecies involving humans. I considered a few Biblical predictive prophecies from the perspective of classical theists in my December 1 post, “Biblical Passages Containing Prophecies Later Fulfilled.”
However open theists argue that all Biblical predictive prophecies fit into one of these categories or into a combination of them:
– they may be of things that God intends to do in the future
– they may be of things that God, because of His exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present, knows will occur as a result of factors already present
– they may be of things that God intends to do if people act in a certain way
Prophecies of the third kind are called conditional prophecies. God describes their nature in Jeremiah 18:7-10: “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I intended to do to it” (ESV). A good example is found in Jonah 3.
For a fuller explanation of Biblical predictive prophecies from an open theistic perspective, see chapter 7, “Prophecy and the Openness of God,” of Richard Rice’s God’s Foreknowledge & God’s Free Will (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1985; pages 75-81). Criticism and defence of it also appear, respectively, in Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000; pages 130-138) and John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 129-137).
Classical theists believe that God has a specific plan for everyone and, controlling (Calvinists) or knowing (Arminians) the future, can guide people to do what He has planned for them. However open theists claim that because of God’s giving humans free will He doesn’t control or know the future. Thus classical theists charge that open theists cannot be sure that God can accomplish His purposes or guide us to do what He wants for us.
However open theists argue that because God knows the past and the present exhaustively and is eminently resourceful, He is able to devise ways to guide people toward doing what He wants for them. And they argue that because God is sovereign, He will eventually accomplish His will for mankind.
Personally I think that the open theistic view accounts better than the classical view does for the successes and failures that I read about in the Bible and see in my own and others’ lives. For example, I don’t think that David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband occurred because this was God’s will for him and them. He let David do what he chose to do and then stepped in to bring good out of the situation.
For an explanation of how God provides guidance from an open theistic perspective, see the section on divine guidance in “Practical Implications” by David Basinger in Clark Pinnock et al’s The Openness of God (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994; pages 162-168). Criticism and defence of it also appear, respectively, in Bruce A. Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000; pages 177-189) and John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 275-278).
In May I’ll be posting a short study of Ephesians 6:10-18 (Spiritual warfare and the armour of God), and in June I’ll be posting updates of my posts last fall on the best books and websites/blogs on open theism. Please let me know of books and websites that you think should be included in the latter.