The Heresy of Open Theism

What is Open Theism?

Open Theism, also called openness and the open view, is a theological position dealing with human free will and its relationship to God and the nature of the future. It is the teaching that God has granted to humanity free will and that in order for the free will to be truly free, the future free will choices of individuals cannot be known ahead of time by God. They hold that if God knows what we are going to choose, then how can we be truly free when it is time to make those choices –since a counter choice cannot then be made by us, because it is already “known” what we are going to do. In other words, we would not actually be able to make a contrary choice to what God “knows” we will choose thus implying that we would not then be free.

In Open Theism, the future is either knowable or not knowable. For the open theists who hold that the future is knowable by God, they maintain that God voluntarily limits His knowledge of free will choices so that they can remain truly free.  Other open theists maintain that the future, being non existent, is not knowable, even by God. Gregory Boyd, a well-known advocate of Open Theism says,

“Much of it [the future], open theists will concede, is settled ahead of time, either by God’s predestining will or by existing earthly causes, but it is not exhaustively settled ahead of time. To whatever degree the future is yet open to be decided by free agents, it is unsettled.”

But open theists would not say that God is weak or powerless. They say that God is capable of predicting and ordaining certain future events because He is capable of working in the world and bringing certain events to pass when the time is needed. Therefore, God could inspire the Old Testament writers to prophesy certain events and then He could simply ensure that those events occurred at the right time.

Furthermore, open theists claim that they do not deny the omniscience of God. They, like classical theologians, state that God is indeed all-knowing. But they differ in that God can only know that which is knowable and since the future has not yet happened, it can not be exhaustively known by God. Instead, God only knows the present exhaustively, including the inclinations, desires, thoughts, and hopes of all people.

In Open Theism God can make mistakes because He does not know all things that will occur in the future. According to them, God also takes risks and adapts to the free-will choices of people. They claim biblical support for their position by citing scripture where God changes His mind (Exodus 32:14), is surprised (Isaiah 5:3–7), and tests people to see what they will do (Genesis 22:12).

Finally, Open Theism tends to portray the God of orthodoxy as distant, controlling, and unyielding while promoting the God of openness as involved, adapting, loving, interacting, and caring for humanity.

(CARM.org)

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5 thoughts on “The Heresy of Open Theism

  1. A good Summary of Open Theism. I just don’t understand the title of the article. Nothing of what you wrote sounds Heretical. Open theists just have a different view on the future of the future. Is it knowable or not? If it doesn’t exist in any form to be known, then that takes nothing from God’s omniscience. The following sentence doesn’t diminish Gods omniscience….’God doesn’t know the colour of my daughters hair.’ Why? Because I don’t have a daughter. Similarly, if the future free will decisions of creatures don’t exist in any form to be known yet….the it takes nothing from God to say they are impossible to know.

    Open Theists adhere to all the ancient creeds beleived on by protestants…Nicene, Apostles etc. they beleive in the centrality of Christ’s death and Resurrection when it comes to salvation. So don’t see anything Heretical about it.

    Thanks

    1. One of the aspects of Open Theism is it denies the Sovereignty of God, As it states in the final paragraph “In Open Theism God can make mistakes because He does not know all things that will occur in the future. According to them, God also takes risks and adapts to the free-will choices of people. They claim biblical support for their position by citing scripture where God changes His mind (Exodus 32:14), is surprised (Isaiah 5:3–7), and tests people to see what they will do (Genesis 22:12)”……. It is impossible for God to make to make a mistake because he is a perfect being and as such He is incapable of taking risks, and He never changes His mind.

      1. Why conflate perfection with not being able to take risks? Isn’t love a risk? With regard to your comment ‘He never changes His mind’ – haven’t you quoted a number of scriptures in your posting showing that God does exactly that? God never changes character…but many scriptures show him changing course of action based on events and choices of other creatures. I appreciate that you may have a different point of view, but given that scripture has so many references to God changing His mind, would you grant that someone having this position may not be a heretic? Isn’t this along the same lines as having a different view on the nature of communion or baptism?

      2. You appear to be confused concerning your comments about God changing His mind, first of all you state that I have proved by the scriptures I have quoted that God does change His mind, and then you refer Him changing his course of action based on events. First of all I will not accept that the scriptures indicate God changes His mind, however, although they do indicate that His actions in some situations may be delayed, the ultimate purpose remains the same. God’s purposed to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and although the action was delayed by the intercession of Abraham, the ultimate outcome was the same. God new that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would not repent, but the reason for delay was to teach Abraham that He does listen and respond to persistent prayers of His people.

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