Category Archives: 5 – Objections to

Open Theism Can’t Account for Biblical Prophecy and God’s Ability To Guide Us

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.

Prophecy

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).

Guidance

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.

Open Theism Lessens God’s Sovereignty and Glory

This is the third 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 “demeaning His sovereignty and diminishing His glory” in this passage in the post:

Opponents of open theism also charge that it undermines God’s omnipotence and omniscience, thus demeaning His sovereignty and diminishing His glory.

God’s Sovereignty

Opponents of open theism charge that it demeans God’s sovereignty because according to it much that happens is the result of decisions made by created beings, humans and fallen angels, rather than what God wants.

However God’s giving us (and angels) free will so that we could resist His will if we chose to doesn’t mean that He put himself at our mercy, as opponents of open theism claim. He retained the right and power to intervene when and how He wished so that He could make things ultimately work out according to His will. He demonstrated this when, as pictured in Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus Christ became one of us, was crucified, and rose from the grave so that we could be reconciled with God.

For fuller responses to the charge, see Gregory A. Boyd’s answer to it on pages 147-150 of his God of the Impossible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) and the chapter on God’s sovereignty in John Sanders’ The God Who Risks (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998; pages 208-236).

God’s Glory

From the beginning to the end of his God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2000), Bruce A. Ware expresses his concern that open theism diminishes God’s glory. In its concluding chapter, “God’s Greater Glory and Our Everlasting Good,” he identifies three ways in which he thinks open theism diminishes God’s glory: God’s failure in the past to move the world forward in the way that He intended and His possible failure to do so in the future, our receiving credit for good produced by our free actions, and God’s lessened sovereignty (see above). For Ware’s explanations of the three ways, see pages 219-230 of God’s Lesser Glory.

Personally I would find it hard to view as glorious a God who foreordained (or who foresaw but couldn’t do anything about) all the evil and suffering in the world. To me, recognizing that evil is brought about created beings and that God will ultimately intervene to bring about His will enhances rather than diminishes God’s glory.

For an eloquent response to Ware’s concern, see pages 182-183 of Clark H. Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 2001).

Postscript

My son-in-law made an excellent comment on “Open Theism Lessens God’s Sovereignty and Glory.” It contains both an analogy and a Biblical example that demonstrate how open theism enhances rather than lessens God’s sovereignty. To read it, either click Replies under the post’s heading or the following link:
https://opentheism.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/open-theism-lessens-gods-sovereignty-and-glory/#comments

Next week I’ll give the last in this series of posts on objections made to open theism.

Open Theism Undermines God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience

This is the second 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:

Opponents of open theism also charge that it undermines God’s omnipotence and omniscience.

God’s Omnipotence

God’s omnipotence is His being all-powerful. He can do everything that is in accordance with His nature and isn’t self-contradictory. However He can’t, for example, lie or make a square circle.

God’s being omnipotent doesn’t mean that He has to exercise His power or at least all of it. Open theists (and Arminians) believe that He voluntarily limited Himself by giving us free will. However Calvinists accuse them of undermining His omnipotence by believing this. (For an explanation of who Arminians and Calvinists are, see my November 17 post, “Calvinism and Arminianism.”)

Calvinists believe that God foreordains everything that happens, including everything that we do. They grant that we don’t always do what He values, which they call His preceptive will, but claim that we always do what He foreordains, which they call His decretive will. Open theists (and Arminians) argue that what we do is a result of our choosing to do them rather than of God’s foreordaining them.

How do Calvinists reconcile God’s foreordaining (and thus causing) everything and yet so much happening that doesn’t seem in accord with what God wants? John M. Frame ascribes it to God’s evaluating every possible state of affairs and choosing among them for the sake of His “historical drama” (No Other God, page 110). Personally I think that a God who would send His Son to the cross for us looks upon what happens here as more than just an historical drama. It’s a real life adventure in which both He and we, as a result of His giving us free will, participate.

God’s Omniscience

God’s omniscience is His being all-knowing. He knows Himself perfectly, all things actual and all things possible, and according to traditional theists the future as well as the past and the present.

Calvinists attribute God’s knowing the future to His foreordaining everything, and Arminians attribute His knowing it to His knowing all things by one simultaneous intuition. However, open theists argue that since the future doesn’t exist yet it can’t be foreknown except for those aspects of it that He determines will happen or that are logically entailed by the present. Holders of all three views hold that their view best fits the Scriptural data.

Because traditional theists believe that God’s omniscience includes complete knowledge of the future and open theists believe that it includes only partial knowledge of it, traditional theists charge that open theism undermines God’s omniscience. Open theists deny the charge, pointing out that they believe that God knows all that it is possible to know and thus that they believe that He is omniscient.

After considering the matter in my February 16 post, “God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom,” I concluded: “Thus my final verdict is that GOD IS OMNISCIENT and MAN IS FREE. The basis of God’s omniscience and man’s freedom being consistent is God’s having voluntarily limited the realm of possible knowledge when He created free creatures. THANK YOU, LORD, FOR TRUSTING US WITH THE GIFT OF FREEDOM!” I still feel the same way.

Thus, although I appreciate the charge by traditional theists that open theism undermines God’s omnipotence and omniscience, I think that the open theistic view of God’s omnipotence and omniscience is more Scriptural and more logical than the views of traditional theists.

Next week I’ll give the third in this series of posts on objections made to open theism.

Open Theism Contradicts Scripture

This is the first 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:

Opponents of open theism…claim that their view (Calvinist, Arminian, or other) makes better sense of Scripture than alternative views, including open theism. They charge that the latter actually contradicts Scripture, which affirms God’s exhaustive foreknowledge (see Traditional Theism) and states that God doesn’t change His mind (Numbers 23:19 and 1 Samuel 15:29).

All quotations from the Bible given in this post are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

God Knows the Future

The section Traditional Theism cites these Biblical passages as indicating that God knows the future:
“Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (Psalms 139:4)
“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)

In my November 24 post, “Biblical Passages Indicating that God Knows the Future,” I explained how Psalms 139:4 and Isaiah 46:9-10 suggest that God foresees the future. Now I’ll indicate how an open theism might respond.

Although Psalm 139:4 can be explained by God’s foreseeing what the psalmist will say, John Sanders observes that it can also be explained by God’s knowing the psalmist so well that He can predict what he will say (The God Who Risks, page 130).

Although Isaiah 46:9-10 can be explained by God’s foreseeing the future, Gregory A. Boyd observes that it can also be explained by God’s intending to bring the events about (God of the Possible, page 30).

God Foreordains Everything

The section Traditional Theism cites these Biblical passages as indicating that God foreordains everything and thus knows the future:
“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38)
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

In my December 8 post, “Passages Supporting God’s Foreordaining Everything,” I explained how Lamentations 3:37-38 and Romans 11:33-36 suggest that God foreordains everything and thus knows that future. Now I’ll indicate how an open theism might respond.

Although Lamentations 3:37-38 seems to say that nobody can make anything good or bad happen unless God has commanded that it happen, Sanders observes that the verses just before the passage assert that the bad that has come upon Israel was a consequence of sin as had been forecast in Deuteronomy 28-30 and thus the passage might just be saying that a specific historical calamity, not all calamity, was brought about by God (The God Who Risks, pages 83-84).

Although John M. Frame claims that “all things” in Romans 11:36 includes events (No Other God, page 87), commentators consistently describe it as referring to all creation or to the universe and explain the verse as saying that God is the source, sustainer, and goal of all things that exist.

God Doesn’t Change His Mind

Above I cited these Bible passages as stating that God doesn’t change His mind:
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoke, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19)
“And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:29)

Here is how an open theist might explain the passages.

The king of Moab, Balak, had asked the prophet Balaam to curse Israel but, as commanded by God, Balaam had blessed them instead. Balak offered sacrifices to try to get God to change His mind. Again Balaam blessed Israel, explaining in Numbers 23:19 that unlike a human God would not change His mind.

God had originally planned to establish Saul’s kingdom over Israel forever but rejected him as king because of his disobeying Him. When Saul tried to get Samuel to intercede for him, Samuel repeated that GOd was going to replace him as king, explaining in 1 Samuel 15:29 that unlike a human God would not change His mind.

In both cases God’s asserted that He would not, rather than that He could not, change His mind and, as Boyd points out in discussing the two passages, there is a big difference between “could not” and “would not” (God of the Possible, page 80). That He could change His mind and sometimes does, I demonstrated in my March 2 and 23 posts, “Scriptures Suggesting a Partly Open Future” and “Open Theism Encourages Prayer.”

Personally I find the explanations of open theists reasonable and thus don’t think that open theism contradicts the Biblical passages given above as affirming God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and His not changing His mind.

Next week I’ll give the second in this series of posts on objections made to open theism.