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Open Theism

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Darren, May 15, 2008.

  1. Darren

    Darren New Member

    Feb 16, 2006
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    I'd like to hear from anyone here who actually is an Open Theist... (hears crickets chirping)... well okay, anyone who's studied them more than passively.

    Here's my view.

    Open Theism purports to be better reasoned and more accurate than Arminianism and Calvinism. On some things, it is, I belive, which is why sometimes I study it to understand certain passages. However, in many cases, it is just as inaccurate, if not worse. Whilst Calvinism and Arminianism both are based on long held doctrines and scriptures that really do exist (though I might argue are missinterpreted) Open Thiesm has many doctrines that I'm pretty sure, have no basis at all in scripture.

    For instance, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't Open Thiests say, God cannot know the future? Do they not also say He is Omniscient? This is a contradiction. Either He is or is not Omniscient, don't claim both for the sake of popularity.

    Also, where is this idea that God cannot know the future? I see no passage that says this. In fact, time and time again God tells the future, even events that He does not say He is the immediate cause of. It is a challenge issued from God in the Bible, several times, for idols to predict the future accurately. It is an ability God HAS and prides Himself on. I myself do not believe God knows all futures, but certainly some, because He predicts them outright (save discussion of my specific beliefs for the "The big one" thread please unless it actually partains).

    Some say God self imposes a limit to keep from interfering with human chioce. This fails even in theory. First off, God knowing the future does not mean man doesn't have a say, just that what will be will be. Also, why would a loving God, self impose limits to the detriment of His beloved creation? He doesn't want to be surprised. Supposing at any time He ever did (seems silly, but supposing), I'm sure He got sick of the surprises He actually got long ago because they weren't good.

    Open Thiesm presents a RADICALLY different view of God than tradition. This should be acknowledged. It is not by Open Thiests. They try to claim that it is simply a different view of the same theories, just differing from Calvinism/Arminianism. It changes more than that.

    I am accusing Open Thiests of the following:

    Deliberate ignorance of scripture, being two faced to be more popular, lying about how close their ideas are to others and having a theory that is down right, poorly thought through.
    #1 Darren, May 15, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: May 15, 2008
  2. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler New Member

    Dec 20, 2005
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    If I understand correctly, Open Theists do not deny God's omniscience. They hold that God knows all things----that can be known. There are some things, they hold, that simply cannot be known.

    If I'm wrong about this, please jump in and correct me.
  3. Jonah4:4

    Jonah4:4 New Member

    May 15, 2008
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    I'll give it a shot. I am an open theist.

    I'm not going to insist that I can speak for all open theists. There are variations of open theism, just as there are variations among calvinists. For instance, while Greg Boyd is one of the most popular open theists, I disagree with him on a number of issues. I will, therefore, only speak for myself as an open theist.

    I do not say that God cannot know the future. I believe that God could know the future if He chose to make the universe work that way. But, our free wills are an indication that God does not know the future exhaustively.

    On omniscience, I say that God knows everything that is knowable, that is everything that exists and has existed. The future does not exist yet and thus is not a thing to be known. This is in opposition to the "Eternal Now" idea which posits that God is "outside of time" from which He created all time at once; this idea is neither biblical or logical.

    Great point! The Bible is full of examples of God giving us information about the future. But we are jumping the gun if we read these examples and immediately conclude that God knew every detail of every event before Genesis 1. I see four distinct possiblities to explain instances of foreknowledge.

    1) "Eternal Now" - God personally created the entire span of time and each event on it. That is, He is outside of time and created it as a dimension of the universe which He can view all at once or at any level of detail he wants. Like the sculptor of a 4-D sculpture, He can prophesy about the future because He already has/is/will mold the feature Himself.

    2) "Creation Force" - When He created the universe, He did it in such a way with such exacting precision in that initial event that every event that follows does so in exactly the way that God intended. Here, God is like a supremely skilled billiards player who knows exactly where each subsequent ball will go by knowing precisely where He will strike the first ball. Thus, He can prophesy because He knows the exact result that will come from His initial action.

    3) "Cosmic Observer" - He can view the entirety of time from His perspective and know each future event, not because He is causing them but simply by way of His perspective.

    4) "Open View" - This really is the most different of the four options; don't let anyone tell you its not that different. Unlike options 1 and 3, the future is not a thing that exists concretely. Like option 2, God is supremely skilled and precise. But unlike option 2, He is not moving inanimate pool balls, He is moving human souls. Pool balls have no soul and no will. Humans have a will and can make important decisions about their lives. God has to work with that, but being omnipotent, He can still make anything He divinely wills come to pass. When He prophesies He is stating things that He certainly wills to do, or He is stating things a human will do based on their character and motivations.

    I'm not real sure what you mean here. Maybe I'll have to check out the "The big one" thread. Do you believe that there is ONE set future that God has foreordained or are there a number of possibilities that God is fully equiped to deal with?

    Actually, that's exactly what open theists say it means. That's a part of the argument that is up in the air. If you are saying that God's exhaustive foreknowledge does not contradict man's free choice, I'd love to hear your arguments on that point.

    Very good! Why? If the open theists are correct in saying that God's foreknowledge and man's freedom are contradictory (many calvinists agree that they are), then why choose one way over the other? Why apparently reduce the sovreignty of God in favor of a quality of man? We could (like the hyper-calvinists) solve the contradiction by saying that man's free will is an illusion. Everything makes sense when we do that, doesn't it? Everything is God's plan and everything we think we are choosing was ordained before we were born to further this plan. God is always in complete control and we can have total confidence in His knowledge. Right?

    But what about the God of the Bible who is constantly pleading with Israel to come back to him? What about the God who asks why bad grapes grow in this vineyard that He has taken care of when He planted only good seeds? What about the God who is angry about the detestable deeds of the idol worshipers? What about the God who humbled himself to become a man and be separated from His Father for our sake? What about the God who calls us all into a relationship of love? Can any of these things be possible without man's free will? How can a God who is in complete control do or even expect any of these things?

    I say that the open theists you have been reading or talking to are wrong to say that there are only minor differences. I would, however, say that open theism does not change any fundamental truths of Christianity. Take any Christian creed you like, I believe it line by line just as much now as I did before I was an open theist. But it has changed my way of looking at afew theological concepts and changed them in big ways.

    I disagree with your accusation of deliberate ignorance of the scripture. Open theism leads me to look more carefully at the real narrative of the scripture instead of trying to assemble ideas of what I think it is saying in several key places.

    About being two faced and lying for popularity, I believe you that you've heard things like this from open theists. All I can say is not all open theists are trying to cheat in a popularity contest.

    And I disagree with you that open theism is poorly thought through. In fact, one thing that I found especially refreshing when I eventually accepted the idea was how much sense it made of the Christian worldview and that I could now make sense of many things in the Bible that I could not before. Open theism, I believe, takes the extra logical steps in exploring its theology that settled theology usually does not.

    I would love to talk about some of these disagreements some more. Iron sharpens iron, and I really love the sharpening process.

  4. Darren

    Darren New Member

    Feb 16, 2006
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    This is the given excuse. They say the future simply has not occured so it cannot be known. It's kinda hard to know. Open Thiests are minority believers. Like myself, that often means they don't fully understand their ideas yet themselves. Some say God can, but won't, others say God can't because the future cannot be known.

    It is said that God deduces the future from the present, having far more resources than ourselves, is then infinitely more accurate. This sounds reasonable until you see God doing things like, predicting a seven year time of harvest and a seven year time of famine, in succession, a good time before either are about to occur. How could God have "deduced" an event spanning 14 years? Whilst at the same time I happily agree, that if God negotiated with Abraham the fate of Soddom and Gamorrah, He did so likely without foreknowledge, (well, my views just got entered-try to stay on subject, but yea, they're in-) since if He had foreknowledge, and fate was already set, of what use was it to negotiate? When God states that He does know the future, I believe that, when He seems to state He does not, I believe that as well.


    Welcome indeed. I was hopping not to get into a battle of the straw men.

    As much as I look down sometimes on Open Theism, for its attempt to fit Bible to theology, rather than theology to Bible, I also praise them for recognizing that the hard line of the church is slowly taking away from human responsibility, assuming it all in the hands of God and various good and evil natures over which we are said to have no control. Open Theists and I often fight on the same side of issues, so I suppose, since in my first post I distanced myself, I should now let on that I indeed feel closer to them than other Christians. Whilst I see little similarity in approach (for instance, I am more forward than most Open Theists -can be a flaw in either direction-) our conclusions are very similar.

    Humans can choose their actions for themselves. God does not pre-fate our actions except as is necessary for His greater plan. This gets into many arguements, BTW. Worthy of God's grace we are not, nor can we be, but this does not exempt us from a responsibility to change. Also, the Bible clearly states many times when God did not behave as one fully omniscient.

    The idea of likening your ideas to someone elses is actually very common. On my website I spoke against it as a core belief. There is no point in likening your ideas to someone elses and saying they are the same, when they are different. My views are not the same as an Open Thiest or a traditional Christian. I dare not say I agree, when I do not. Some christians attempt to agree even with an athiest until they allow a parting of ways in only certain areas, in order to attract a less disagreeable person. Trust me, a person won over by this near deciet, will be far more disagreeable in the future, when he is disallusioned.

    The likening of your ideas to someone elses to gain their approval, is something most Christians need to work on. There is a line between simple avoidence of unnecessary confrontation, and deception. I myself have crossed it at times, God please forgive me.

    Like I said, minority believers tend to understand, we are still growing and learning. Majority believers often, I think, need to take a step back, and realize they to, can be wrong.

    I myself pride myself on admiting defeat on occasion. Why? Because this proves that I value the truth, more than my silly opinion and pride. I can be right, but I can also be wrong. Being wrong is not a sin. The sin, is when you see it, closing your eyes.

    I see that God would have lost something were He to make the universe with full Calvinististic control. (Ya know, maybe I should have let this thread be "the big one" since the two are likely to combine sooner or later -just stating a fact-). Course that implies that God has limits, which gets into my arguement for a limited God. Like an ant looking at the sun. The sun has limits, but just a taste of its power, would not even leave dust from the ant. (Put it this way. Just a taste of God's power, could whipe out all men, the sun and the ant.)

    He does not know all futures, but this does not mean He cannot know some, can we agree there?

    I understand your view, in fact, even see the logic that the future is undeterimined. However, I disagree with it. I believe in inevitability. This means what will be, will be. God, nor fate, nor mystical beings have forced events before we had a say, but at the same time, what will happen will happen.

    May I enter a radically new idea? Say I saw the future. Say now I try to change it. But once I change it, what have I done? Created a logical paradox.

    You see, if I truely saw the future, that future would have come to pass. If it did not come to pass, it was not the future. Enevitability. You can know the future, but you cannot change it. Just like you can know the past, but cannot change it. What was, was. What is, is. What will be, will be. Regardless of what powers effect the end, it will be what it will be.

    This does not negate choice. It is our choices that detirmine this future. However, those chioces could be different, they will not be different. You will choose a path, and when you do, you can't take it back. For instance, if you lie, you can't take back your words.

    Some often point out to me, that God often predicts possibility. I see this usually happening regarding His own actions. But this is more, what ifs.

    Paraphrasing: "If My people do justice", He says, "I will bless them. If they do evil, I will curse them."

    He's predicting His own actions. This is not a supernatural act. I recognize what God does that is beyond men, but this is not one of those actions.

    I did a small presentation on this:
    (BTW, there's an oops. When I quoted 1 Kings 12:15, I accidenly put my words in the same color as the Bible. I usually try to separate the two, so it looks awkward. The second sentence is mine, not scripture.)
  5. Darren

    Darren New Member

    Feb 16, 2006
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    How little I suppose we both know of eachother. This brings a chuckle to me. I myself believe the future was open upon the creation. I believe the sacrifice of Jesus was a plan of "in case" men were to fall.

    I don't believe in jumping from one logical extreme, God cannot know the future, to another, God knows all futures.

    This is the traditional view. I believe it is wrong.

    Another idea I believe to be false.

    Ah yes, the God universe. Another theory I've actually brought up in a thread called "the God of THIS universe".

    It is different. Thankyou for being upfront.

    I disagree that God is omnipotent. (see how this and the other thread will have to evolve together, -hang it all, they're the same, maybe we should combine them {this one and "the BIG one"} -) However I agree that God has power beyond sufficient.

    I also disagree, the future is what it is.

    Then I suppose there is a fifth view:

    The future is set by no force but the forces that determine it. It however, is still set and cannot be changed. This does not mean it cannot be seen. Nor does it mean it cannot be effected, but understand, whilst detirmined by us, that deterimation cannot be changed. If you see what will come to pass, don't live your life to change it, change you life, to be ready for it.

    For instance, what if you knew the day and circumstance of your death. How would you live your life?

    Most would waste their lives trying to see how to prevent their death, then die anyway. I would feel liberated. I would know how I would die. I would no longer need to fear death. I could do the things I am afraid to do, because I fear the consiquences. (A thing that has great potential for good or evil... a great idea for a novel, don't ya think?)

    Might I just point out here, Soveriegnty is Soveriengty. Like the galaxy to an ant, so God is to us, above and beyond.

    Execellent point.

    Again, an excellent point. You couldn't help not knowing that I would agree, since my presentation didn't include my specific views, just a few critisims.

    Here, here.

    It's all too common, especially for minority believers, because they hate all the dumb arguements (like, "God can't be God if He doesn't fit "X"") and the name calling. Can't blame them I hate it to, but it can't be avoided whilst maintaining ones integrity.

    Indeed. Superior but still wrong. I think the presentation of Open Theism is inferior in some places, and superior in others. Just like I said earlier. Perhaps I was too harsh.

    Indeed. It's refreshing to see someone eager to explore possiblities, instead of hating even the idea that he CAN be wrong.