Biblical Passages Indicating that God Knows the Future

This is the second of four posts expanding on what I said about traditional theism in “What Is Open Theism?” In it I expand on this paragraph:

Two passages which indicate that God knows the future are:
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. (Psalms 139:4, ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Psalm 139

Psalms 139:4, quoted above, makes clear that the Psalmist believed that God knew in advance all the words that he would speak. Even stronger support for God’s foreknowledge of the future is found in Psalms 139:16, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Clearly the passage indicates that the Psalmist believed that God had formed or ordained the days of his life before he was even born.

Isaiah 40-48

Bruce A. Ware devotes over twenty pages (pages 101-121) of God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000) to the portrayal of God’s foreknowledge given in Isaiah 40-48, considering separately 41:21-29; 42:8-9; 43:8-13; 44:6-8; 44:24-28; 45:1-7; 45:18-25; 46:8-11; and 48:3-9. I’ll comment here on just two of those passages–the first of them (41:21-29) and the one that I quoted from in “What Is Open Theism?” (46:8-11).

In Isaiah 41:21-29 God challenges the gods of the nations to “tell us what is to come hereafter that we may know that you are gods” (verse 23) and goes on to give an example of how He did so “that we might say, ‘He is right'” (verse 26). In his classic Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God Stephen Charnock comments: “He [God] puts his Deity to stand or fall upon this account, and this should be the point which should decide the controversy, whether he or the heathen idols were the true God; the dispute is managed by this medium,–He that knows things to come, is God; I know things to come, <i>ergo</i>, I am God; the idols know not things to come, therefore they are not gods.”

In Isaiah 46:9-10 God clearly asserts that He had declared in the past things about the future and that they would come to pass. Open theists argue that the things that God declared about the future that would come to pass were just things that God intended to do and not the freewill actions of people. However they included “calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country” (Isaiah 46:11), probably a reference to Cyrus, whom God predicts in Isaiah 44:28 would restore Jerusalem (Ezra 1 describes the fulfillment of this prediction). God’s bringing this about involved using the apparently freewill choices of Cyrus and others, providing support for the view of traditional theism that God foresees the whole future, not just what He intends to do.

In response open theists agree that God foreknows that some things will happen because He has determined to bring about those things but argue that His doing so doesn’t mean that He has foreordained and/or knows everything that will happen. For example William Huget, head administrator of Facebook’s Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal group, made this comment on the original version of this post:

“There are alternate understandings to these proof texts that really do not support EDF [exhaustive definite foreknowledge]. Ps. 139 relates to present knowledge, not to exhaustive definite FK [foreknowledge] of all future free will contingencies. Is. 46; 48, etc. shows that God does declare some vs all things about the future and brings them to pass by His ABILITY, not a supposed prescience that sees the non-existent future.”

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