Open Theism

What Is Open Theism?

“Open theism,” also known as “openness theology” and the “openness of God,” is an attempt to explain the foreknowledge of God in relationship to the free will of man. The argument of open theism is essentially this: Human beings are truly free; if God absolutely knew the future, human beings could not truly be free. Therefore, God does not know absolutely everything about the future. Open theism holds that the future is not knowable. Therefore, God knows everything that can be known, but He does not know the future.

Open theism bases these beliefs on Scriptures which describe God “changing His mind,” or “being surprised,” or “seeming to gain knowledge” (Genesis 6:6; 22:12; Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). In light of the many other Scriptures that declare God’s knowledge of the future, these Scriptures should be understood as God describing Himself in ways that we can understand. God knows what our actions and decisions will be, but He “changes His mind” in regards to His actions based on our actions. God being surprised and disappointed at the wickedness of humanity does not mean He was not aware it would occur.

In contradiction to open theism, Psalm 139, verses 4 and 16 state, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” How could God predict intricate details in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ if He does not know the future? How could God in any manner guarantee our eternal salvation if He does not know what the future holds?

Ultimately, open theism fails in that it attempts to explain the unexplainable—the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and mankind’s free will. Just as extreme forms of Calvinism fail in that they make human beings nothing more than pre-programmed robots, so open theism fails in that it rejects God’s true omniscience and sovereignty. God must be understood through faith, for “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6a). Open theism is, therefore, not scriptural. It is simply another way for finite man to try to understand an infinite God, akin to trying to drink an ocean dry. Open theism should be rejected by followers of Christ. While open theism is an explanation for the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human free will, it is not the biblical explanation.


(Doug Eaton comments on Open Theism)


5 responses to “Open Theism

  1. Thank you for this post. I am currently taking classes at Nazarene Bible College, and this position seems to be popular with the professors. My current professor is an Open Theist, and has actually docked my grade on assignments because I oppose his view.

    Most of the verse you have presented are explained away by Open Theists noting that the Bible is not fully inerrant and we need to view verses such as these through that lens.

  2. Thanks Jason for your comment. Sorry that your grades were effected by the fact that you would not fall in line with the professor’s view on this subject- which to make matters worse, he docked you for opposing a heretical position!

    I pray that you will continue in your studies with God’s protection over you, that you stay faithful to His word, and not be swayed by “vain philosophies.”

  3. This is an area I have studied on my own. The Bible does say or indicate that God changed His mind on various occasions in response to prayer of people’s actions. The prophets say that God offers opportunity for repentence and that the people “may” repent. To correlate that to obvious teaching and experience in life that God does know the future, I believe that althout He knows it, He acts as though He did not in order to give us complete freedom of choice.

    The fact is that God is infinite, eternal, and beyone all human understanding. We cannot understand everything about the Trinity, Jesus’ birth and life as the god-man, prayer, and other topics. In the beginning God (the Trinity) created the universe (space, matter and time) and is therefore outside all of these. We can do no more than accept what the Bible clearly teaches and trust Him for what we cannot understand.

  4. Man’s understanding is limited to the speed of light. God’s understanding, on the other hand, is not. So, as events occur, God knows it before we do. The future cannot be known if it doesn’t exist. So, does God know everything, yes, at least everything that is. Now having said that; since God’s perception is infinite, he has in fact seen the end, even though it hasn’t happen yet. I know, it makes my head hurt too.

  5. Really Allen? You believe that “although He knows it (the future), He acts as though He did not in order to give us complete freedom of choice”???! Wow! No Scripture proving this stance, and just as bad – saying in essence that God states one thing and then does another – completely contradicting Himself, even therefore lying to us? What then can you trust? I leave you with Jesus’ own words,
    “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who WILL believe in Me through their (the disciple’s) word;” John 17:20. No one can be saved if they do NOT believe in the future understanding and foreknowledge (See Ephesians 1 & 2) of Christ Jesus Himself. Ever hear of prophecy Allen? “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” Matthew 4:17. A statement by Jesus, concerning His Kingdom, again, when given, was yet future! Ever heard of “prophecy”? Unless, of course, you are prepared to ax out the hundreds of prophecies give by God to all the prophets, both Old and New Testaments?! Shame on you.

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