Open Theism Has Theological Advantages over Other Views

This is the third in a series of posts on the advantages claimed for open theism that I identified in What Is Open Theism?. It expands on this statement in that post:

Proponents of open theism also claim…that it has significant theological…advantages over alternative views. Examples…are: it frees God from appearing responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust and for the creation of damned individuals.

It frees God from appearing responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust.

In O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die? I described my personal search for a solution to what is known as the problem of evil. I concluded that the best solution was the free will defence, about which I said:

The free will defence is rooted in the Genesis account of the creation and fall of man. According to that account, God made the first man and the first woman “in his own image” (1:27). However, unlike Him, they did not “know good and evil” (3:6,22). God provided them opportunity for such by commanding them not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” at the same time warning them that they would “surely die” if they did eat of it (2:17). Tempted by the serpent (Satan, according to Revelation 20:2), Adam and Eve disobeyed, bringing moral and physical evil into man’s world (chapter 3). Thus, evil exists in the world, according to the Genesis account of the creation and fall of man, because God gave man a choice between obeying or disobeying Him and man chose to disobey Him.

Why would God give man a such a choice, knowing that man could choose to disobey Him, thus bringing evil into the perfect world that He had created? Certainly, being all-powerful, He not only could have prevented introduction of evil into the human world but also could banish it from our world or at least make a new home for us where it could not enter (Revelation 21-22). And, surely, being wholly good, He did not and does not want evil. The answer to this question, according to the proponents of the free will defence, is that God wanted to create the best possible world that He could and a world containing free, moral creatures is better, all else being equal, than a world not containing free moral creatures. Accordingly, God created a world in which there originally existed no evil and He created human beings capable of free moral choice.

Subsequently I demonstrated in God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom that if human beings have the free will referred to in the free will defence at least part of the future is not determined as held by traditional theists but is open as held by open theists. Thus according to open theism atrocities like the Holocaust occur because God gave people free wills and sometimes they choose to perform such atrocities. In other words people, not God, are responsible for atrocities like the Holocaust. Surely this puts God in a better light that the view of traditional theism that God foreordained or at least foreknew but did nothing about such atrocities!

It frees God from appearing responsible for the creation of damned individuals.

According to traditional theism, God foreknew or even foreordained before He created Adam and Eve which of their descendants would be damned to eternal suffering in Hell. Yet according to 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “God our Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” and 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is … not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Gregory Boyd asks, “If God eternally foreknew that certain individuals would end up damning themselves, and if … God … wants everyone to be saved …, why would he go ahead and create such individuals?” (Gregory Boyd, <i>God of the Possible</i>, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000, page 100).

According to open theism, all people are born with the possibility of going to Heaven but some reject God’s offer of eternal life and end up in Hell. Surely having just the possibility of being damned to Hell is better than being certain of being damned to it, as is the case for those whom God foreknew or even foreordained before their birth would be damned to Hell!

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6 thoughts on “Open Theism Has Theological Advantages over Other Views

  1. Rodney Froude

    I have so many questions I don’t know where to start or how to put them into sentences.
    I guess number one being why would God need to limit His own ability to know all things in a universe that He created. Does it truly change anything?

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      “I guess number one being why would God need to limit His own ability to know all things in a universe that He created.”
      Actually I don’t think that God limited His ability to know all things. I think that He always has known and always will know all things that it’s possible to know.
      However I do think God limited His control over the future, and thus limited what it’s possible to know about the future, when He created creatures with a free will.
      “Does it truly change anything?”
      God’s creating creatures with a free will and thus limiting His power over the future means that some creatures love Him freely instead of just loving Him because He ordained that they do so.

      Reply
  2. Allison

    If God decided that a world containing free moral creatures is better than a world not containing free moral creatures, how will God one day create a perfect world in heaven?

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      Recently the Life group which Leonora and I attend considered the problem that you asked about. We’re reading Gregory A. and Edward K. Boyd’s Letters from a Skeptic. In his sixth letter Edward poses this question, “I was taught in the Catholic Church that heaven is a permanent place. I mean, once you’re in, you’re in forever. But Satan was supposedly in heaven, wasn’t he? Yet he fell. So do you think people may even choose evil once they get to heaven?”
      Gregory answers his father’s question by proposing that because God wants us to love Him freely He has us go through a probation period in which we choose to love or not love. Because of Adam’s fall we can’t choose to love by ourselves, but our acceptance of Jesus’ death for us enables us to. He concludes, “Once [love is] chosen … for whatever time is necessary … [we] become solidified in [our] decision. This is what the Bible means by heaven and hell. It is the ‘eternalization’ of one’s character.”
      The only other solution to the problem that I’ve encountered is that God abolishes our freedom to sin when we enter Heaven. John Sanders suggests it as a possibility in The God Who Risks (page 336, footnote 99). The other possibility that he suggests is similar to the one that Gregory Boyd proposed to his father, his suggesting that the presence of God in us so changes us, either progressively in our life here or instantaneously on entering Heaven, that we become confirmed in holiness.

      Reply

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