Why Open Theism is Frightening to Some Christians

Here’s a good post from Ben Bajarin over at Nailing It to the Door (read the original HERE).  For those with any interest in understanding Open Theism, I very highly recommend the paper by Thomas Belt HERE) which is also linked at the bottom of the post.  It is an easy read and I really believe it is essential reading for anyone who cares to understand Open Theism, be they Open Theists or not.


When discussing open theism with those who have a problem with it, the idea or fear of control always seems to come out. The argument is that if God does not know the future as one set of eternally settled facts how is he in control or ultimately sovereign? Not only are there all kinds of logical problems with this fear but its rooted in the false thinking that, in the open view, God can be surprised or learns something new as a result of human action. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

I’ll explain by looking at this using absolute terms. The proponent enters the path of thinking that God either settled the future as in the Calvinist view, or simply knows it but did not cause it as in the Arminian view. The assumption is that one can only truly know the future if the future is known in absolutes.

While open theism states that God knows the future as possibilities, I would add that God knows these possibilities as absolute. Therefore God absolutely knows all the possibilities of what will happen in the future. Because of his infinite absolute knowledge of all the possibilities God knows everything that may happen as well as knowing everything that will happen absolutely. Therefore what may and what will happen is no different in the mind of God because out of all the possibilities comes what will happen.

Therefore all possibilities are foreknown and a plan is in place. There is no possibility that God has not been prepared for since the beginning of time because he is infinitely intelligent and infinitely powerful.

So does God know what i’m going to have for lunch in 15 years. Yep, he knows I will have x, or x, or x, or x, or x etc and he knows I won’t have x, or x, or x, or x etc – absolutely. Divine foreknowledge is foreknowledge none the less regardless of the manner in which it is known.

Is God Less Sovereign in the Open View?

This is really the issue most proponents have. The claim is that the God of open theism is not sovereign unless he knows the future as one set of fixed events. The problem here is who then is defining what or what not makes God Sovereign?

If we say God needs to know the future as a set of eternally settled facts in order to be sovereign then we are really the ones defining his sovereignty. We are forcing our definitions or pre-conceived notions of what sovereignty is onto God, rather than letting the text define his sovereignty. Instead the text says he is in control and no matter the way in which he is, we are assured he ultimately is sovereign and in control.

But Ben, you say, the text clearly states that God states that his knowledge of the future is what sets him apart from other gods. To that I agree, see above, God knows the future and that is what sets him apart from other gods. Foreknowledge is foreknowledge no matter how he knows it.

I don’t need God to know the future as a set of eternally settled facts in order to be sovereign. I can fully resolve that he is sovereign, and can still be, even with an exhaustive knowledge of all the possibilities of the future. I know God is bigger and stronger and so Sovereign that nothing can stand in the way of the redemption and reconciliation of all things. What’s more is that I think a God whom can still “work all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11) amidst the possible choices of free agents, is a pretty powerful God.

In another post I will dive deeper on God’s relation to time and how many of the proponents of open theism use an analogy that places God in time even though they are a-temporal (meaning God is outside of time) in their theology.

If you are interested in an excellent paper written by a missionary named Thomas Belt to the AOG association download and read it here.  It’s one of the most complete statements of Open Theism I’ve seen in a while.

Love Wins

2 comments on “Why Open Theism is Frightening to Some Christians

  1. Tim says:

    Good Stuff. I agree that most of the nervousness around Open Theism is based on mis-information and unscrutinized assumptions.

    Be interested in what you come up on the time issue. My view is that God is ‘in time’ like the rest of us. Time isn’t a ‘thing’ hence is not part of the created order. It is merely the description of elapsed sequence – this happened, then that happened etc. When we speak of an Eternal God, I see this as equal to the phrase ‘an Everlasting God’.




  2. Bill says:

    Interersting point you make about time. I’ll have to give it some thought. For what it’s worth, here’s something I wrote on the philospophical debate over whether God is eternal or everlasting: https://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/everlasting-god/


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