Apologetic Thursdays: A Response to Open Theism (1)

For an introduction to Open Theism, check my post on it here. The biblical basis for open theist theology is that verses showing God’s ignorance of the future should be taken just as literally as verses showing His foreknowledge (God of the Possible by Greg Boyd, pg. 54). In Genesis 22:12, God seems to learn something that He wasn’t sure of before: that Abraham feared Him. In Jonah, God states that He will destroy Nineveh because of their sin, but after they repent God seems to change His mind and doesn’t destroy it (Jonah 3:10). God also didn’t seem to know that Israel would start to sacrifice their children to false gods, because He said it’s something “which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind,” (Jer. 7:31).

Traditionally, theologians haven’t taken these verses as literal, but openness advocates think that distorts what the Scripture clearly teach and leads to strange and unsatisfactory interpretations to explain away the text. They say that if we take these verses at face value without trying to distort them, it teaches that God doesn’t know the future fully, and we need to take that seriously.

The openness advocates are certainly right that much of Scripture should be read in a straightforward manner, but that is only unless we have good reason not to do so. If we are given reason for thinking that those verses should not be taken literally, then we shouldn’t.

In Genesis 18, God says to Abraham, “I will go down to see whether they [Sodom and Gomorrah] have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know,” (Gen. 18:21). If we take this passage literally, then it would indicate that God doesn’t have full knowledge of the past and present and that He’s not omnipresent! Even the open theist wouldn’t want to go that far. But because of the strong Scriptural affirmation in other passages that God is omnipresent (Psalm 139) and is omniscient (Isaiah 40-48), we have good reason to conclude that this verse shouldn’t be taken in a straightforward way. That’s how the open theist would reason through these passages, but can’t the same be done for the verses they use to support their view?

The contention of the traditional theist is that we have good Scriptural reasons to think the passages open theists use to support their view aren’t to be taken in a straightforward way. God does know the future exhaustively.

On my next post, I’ll show how some verses open theists use to support their view shouldn’t be taken in a straightforward way. Hopefully, you will be able to apply the methods I give to the whole of Scripture so that you’re biblical interpretation will improve and benefit your knowledge of God.

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