Why I’m not an Open Theist

Open theism usually can be divided into two. Some are open theists for philosophical reasons and others for exegetical reasons. That is just serious proponents for the movement. Some think that using anthropomorphism is an arbitrary exegetical move and therefore should be rejected. Let’s separate them up:

Philosophical Open Theism:

This movement arises from the idea that propositions directed toward the future have no truth values because the propositions have no grounding since the future is pure contingency(open). That leaves humans with the ultimate choice over the future. This is because it is the Human action at the moment of a choice that determines the truth value of the proposition and God finds that Human Freedom is worth giving man such abilities. They also tend to think Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism leaves God with being the sole culpable agent for the evils the world contains. This is because God was able and fully aware that evil would occur and yet didn’t stop or intervene to prevent evil. He was able and yet unwilling to stop evil.

Exegetical Open Theism:

These positions are not mutually exclusive but rather just seem to be the tendency of where open theist can fall into. That being because many people are of different interest and different abilities. The exegetical open theist thinks the Bible clearly and in an unqualified way states that God does not know the future. Take for example this prooftext:

“And they built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-Hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin,” (Jer. 32:35, 19:5, 7:31).

The issue is that the “to enter one’s mind” or “עָלָה עַל־לֵב” is more about inclination and disposition. It is language to convey this is not what the individual thinks is morally acceptable. Secondly, they operate this method very inconsistently. Open Theist tends to think that God is immaterial and that the statements that attribute physical parts to God are anthropomorphic. Why the inconsistency? Third, there are texts that fit better in a theology where God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge.

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5).

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:16).

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).

“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

Furthermore, the philosophical Open theist view only has weight if you accept agents have libertarian freedom. Calvinist wisely reject that notion and hold to a form of determinism. It is a problem for Libertarian Calvinist, Arminians, Pelagians, and Molinists. The Calvinist can ground the truth value of future tensed propositions in the Will of God. Which leads to a verse that teaches divine determinism. Eph. 1:11.

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

This verse teaches that God has from eternity purposed and worked all things according to his will. History unfolds by the providential will of God. The verse seems to refer to everything to have ever existed. This also has a polemical background against their pagan culture where you could resist the god’s wills. Take that contextual point of reference:

To answer the question, we should ask what constitutes the implied point of contrast. What would it mean for God not to do all things according to his will? What’s the opposing thesis? The alternative to God acting according to his will is for God to act contrary to his will. And in context, that’s a significant distinction. Paul is addressing Gentile Christians living in a pagan city. Christian converts from Greco-Roman heathenism. In Greek mythology, even a god did not do all things according to his will. Sometimes a god was forced to act under duress, against his will. Even Zeus had to bow before the supremacy of the Fates. Likewise, in pagan witchcraft, the gods can be manipulated and coerced through magic rituals. … So at least one contextual point of contrast is the resounding affirmation that the Christian God isn’t subject to any higher power. He has no effective opposition. That stands in contrast to pagan fatalism and sorcery. This has modern counterparts in freewill theism. According to freewill theism, God is often forced to act against his will, because demonic and human agents have the ability to veto God’s will. They can and do thwart his best intentions. So God must try to work around his obstreperous creatures. Like the Greek gods, his plans are often frustrated by rival power centers. … This also explains the link between God’s will and “all things”. The reason all events take place according to God’s will is because there’s no other agent equal to or superior to God to counteract his will–unlike pagan fatalism or freewill theism. Since God has no competition, then by default, every event unfolds according to his will, rather than only some events happening according to his will because his power is checked by other agents, who have their own way some of the time, despite God’s ineffectual wishes.

https://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/11/according-to-his-will.html

We also may consider whether Open theism alleviates us of philosophical difficulties. Some think the best answer to the problem of evil can be given by the open theist. They maintain God simply didn’t know what Adam and Eve would’ve done and thus aren’t to blame for any of the evils that occur.

According to open theism, God is in a situation of diminish responsibility for evil inasmuch as God is ignorant of the long-term consequences of his creative actions. But there are problems with that theodicy:
If you don’t know whether you’re inserting innocent people into a dangerous situation, shouldn’t you play it safe? When it doubt, is it not morally incumbent on you to avoid exposing people to an unforeseeable, but potentially catastrophic risk? Moreover, even if God can’t foresee the outcome a year in advance or a month in advance, surely he can foresee the outcome a day in advance or an hour in advance. As events come to a head, the future becomes increasingly predictable, even if the outcome is not a dead certainty. In addition, we don’t generally think the bare possibility that something might not be harmful is an excuse to insert innocent people into what is, in all likelihood, a hazardous situation.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/09/serrated-theodicy.html

If God doesn’t know everything then he can’t be the source of objective moral norms and obligations. He could simply be mistaken about what He thinks is wrong and later change his mind. Furthermore, he is changing and the grounds of ethics must be an unchanging omniscient final authority. Since God isn’t the grounds of goodness he could be evil and thus be a divine deceiver tricking all of us. Thus given Open theism skepticism follows.

Jimmy Stephens explains these points:

One downfall of open theism – and there are many – is that it leads to skepticism about God’s moral authority. To wit, if God doesn’t know everything then He cannot be the source of moral reality. God’s predetermination of the future is a precondition of His absolute moral authority and of His ability to ground moral values and obligations. Let me explain.

            Suppose that God has not predetermined every event in history. Instead indeterminism is the case, the future undecided and yet to be discovered by God just as much as man. In that case there are historical events, and so facts in general, that find their ontological source outside God. These facts will inform God as much as man, adding information to God’s bank of knowledge just as much as it teaches His creatures. Because the future is not determined by God with His moral wisdom and in fact adds to His wisdom in general, it is fair to ask how we as humans know God will not come to discover that His moral opinions are heretofore mistaken or, at the very least, that He has learned a new and better moral code for humanity incompatible with Christianity in practice. Since God changes and learns alongside human beings in time, why would His moral judgments not be as amendable as the open theist will no doubt admit ours are?

            It is of no consequence whether the open theist affirms a superior moral wisdom in God. As long as God’s moral wisdom plays no determinative role on future events, appealing to God’s wisdom is no better than betting on a mastermind chess player. By analogy, the chess player may possess such an intelligence that He can beat every opponent, that betting against him is ludicrous. Sure, God’s moral wisdom may be so profound and insightful that He will provide the best ethical advice in all probability. However, being the best chess player does not guarantee you will never lose. Neither does it guarantee that you will not change your mind about strategies to play on the board, thus becoming an even better chess player than before. Likewise, no matter how profound God’s moral wisdom might be, so long as a degree of new information extraneous to His present wisdom remains to be seen, that is a degree of chance God will change His mind how we ought to live our lives. So the open theist is going to need a stonger answer than appeals to nominal wisdom and omniscience.

            Keep in mind that this is just one skeptical scenario. We can imagine a worse case, one far more disturbing. Suppose that the future does end up apprising God’s thoughts about morality, showing that His plan of redemption is in need of serious revision. Only this time, God does not update His opinions. Instead, out of pride or weakness or – God forbid (pun intended) – ignorance, God fails to accept what moral implications the future has wrought. In such a scenario, God would play blundering tyrant or devious despot, hardly worthy of worship by Biblical standards. Yet, what ontological principle can open theists adduce to escape this dilemma?

            I repeat, it is a dilemma. On one horn, God is the absolute moral authority, but only because the past, present, and future – all reality, in fact, is determined by Him to comport with His perfect character. In other words, one horn is not open theism, and is in fact the sort of Christian determinism gladly promulgated by Calvinists such as myself. On the other horn, indeterminism holds and the future is open, but only as long as God is as open to correction as man about His moral opinions. The second horn deprives God of his absoluteness. At best, He is the best chess player; at worst, it’s just that nobody has noticed Him cheating yet. To escape through these horns, open theists will have two routes.

            One method is to argue that although God could technically turn out wrong or in need of moral modernization, our best epistemic tools nevertheless support belief in God’s ethical view. The other method, more ambitious, is to show how God cannot possibly fail to have the right ethical view in light of this or that attribute. Let me answer the latter first, since its failure is more straightforward.

Furthermore, Open Theism undermines the notion that God is morally perfect or is a moral agent at all. An Open theist wishes to maintain it is logically impossible for God to sin. On the other hand, it wishes to teach that without the ability to choose otherwise(even contrary to desires or characters) an agent is a robot. If a man only does good actions because it is his nature to do good, then he is merely a mechanism. But they wish to maintain that God does only good deeds because of his holy character. This means God doesn’t have the choice to choose not to do evil because it is not a logically possible state of affairs. This means the open theist thinks that God is a mechanism and not an agent or he can possibly do evil. But if it is possible for God to do evil then at any moment he could become the greatest force of evil at any moment. Thus, he isn’t a morally perfect being. 

Since God is ignorant of certain things then truth is above and higher than God. A personal God thus isn’t the ultimate explanation of reality. The open theist won’t appeal to another God or to some impersonal force like fate. The sole guide of the reality for an Open Theist is impersonal chance. At any moment reality could become irrational and incomprehensible. God is just another fact that needs to be explained by chance. This is the result of denying God’s aseity.

The most radical attack on divine aseity in our day comes from the so-called open theists, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Gregory Boyd, William Hasker, and others. For these, God was once a se but he somehow renounced his aseity so that now he cannot accomplish his goals without the free choices of creatures. So in the present world, nothing is a se. In one sense, open theism wants to attribute aseity to the human free will. On the open theists’ libertarian concept of freedom, human free decisions have no cause: not God, not the natural order, not even their own desires. But if my decision is not caused by my desire, then it is something I don’t want to do. So even I do not cause my free decisions. They are random, arbitrary, irrational events, like the realm of Prime Matter among the Greeks. Not only does this view fail to give a rational account of free choice, it makes any such account impossible. The rationalism of the open theists (seeking a definitive explanation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility) has them to posit a principle of sheer irrationality.

Dr. John Frame- Divine Aseity and Apologetics

If Libertarian freedom is the case, then at any moment a creature could’ve corrupted the words of the Old and New Testament. This leaves inerrancy up to chance and not to God’s overarching providence. This argument has been deloped further in the links below. I also will add an article on “limited Inerrancy” for the Open Theist that maintain that instead of traditional inerrancy.

Further Suggestions:

TheCouncil:

Problem of Evil

Bruce Ware on Freewill

Inerrancy, Is It a Matter of Luck?

Dr. Vern Poythress:

Problems for Limited Inerrancy

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This entry was posted in Classical Theism, Doctrine of God, Freewill, Jimmy Stephens, Metaphysics, Open Theism by TheSire. Bookmark the permalink.

About TheSire

I'm a Christian, Trinitarian, rational scientific anti-realist, Baptist, Van Tilian, Covenant theology, Inerrancy, Substance dualist, Classical theist, Protestant, Reformed, and a particularist. Here is a place where I take information from many different sources and place them in a useful format. My influences are Steve Hays, Dr. James Anderson, Dr. Greg Welty, Dr. Vern Poythress, Dr. John Frame, R. C. Dozier, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, Ronald W. Di Giacomo, R. C. Sproul, Dr. James White, Dr. Paul Helm, Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, Paul Manata, Turretinfan, Milton Friedman, James A. Gibson, and others. " You're one of the most intricate thinkers I know so if you believe something I would like to understand why and be challenged to think about it." Tyler Vela I'd like to thank Vincent Ransom for the profile picture.

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