Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is Open Theism "Beyond the Bounds of Orthodox Christianity"?

While reading through the book of Isaiah and being in awe of God's Sovereignty, Might, Glory, Omniscience, and all of His other attributes, I was wondering,
what do the "Open Theists" like Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, & John Sanders do with the myriad of passages throughout scripture like this?

Isaiah 46:9-11 (ESV)
...for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'...I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

In case you are wondering what I'm talking about, historically, Calvinists, Arminians, and
"mixtures of both" have at least all agreed that God definitely does know the future.
They have just disagreed on "how"...whether He decreed or ordained it, or whether He just "looked ahead and saw it"...but either way, both agree God is Omniscient
...and Calvinists & Arminians differ on the definition of words like predestination, foreknowledge, election, chose, chosen, etc., but they all remained within the bounds of "Orthodox Christianity".

But Open Theism goes "beyond the bounds" and says God doesn't and can't know the future because the future is not settled, because it can't be known until we as humans make our daily choices and decisions.

If this is the case, then the God they espouse must quite often have to wring His hands after reading the morning newspaper, and say "Oops, what do I do now?, or uh-oh, I didn't expect that!, or how am I going to fix that?, or well, I guess I'll have to move on to plan-b, plan-c, etc... and just hope it all works out in the end, and doesn't get too far out of control."

The Open Theists like to camp out heavily on isolated passages and use them as proof-texts like the Genesis flood where God said He was sorry He had made man, the one in Exodus where it says God relented, or in Jonah when God relented from destroying Ninevah, and a few other passages, but they fail to use scripture to interpret scripture, and they totally ignore the passages that proclaim God's Sovereignty and his Immutability. They don't seek the "whole counsel of God", but cherry-pick the passages they want to believe. The LORD, through the prophet Jeremiah, clarified some of these issues quite well as follows:
(ESV) Jeremiah 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
There's no way for us as humans to fully comprehend or understand the LORD, as His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55). So by using anthropomorphisms, words like repent and relent and changed were used by the Biblical writers through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to express what God's actions appeared like from the vantage point or perspective of fallen man. The same is true as when Scripture talks about God's arm, hand, heart, wings, etc., but in other passages we are told the Father is Spirit.

So this passage in Jeremiah tells us that God has already decreed what He will and will not do. He's not changing at all, His Character remains the same, it's the people that change. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

Here's a small list of just a few other men of God who oppose Open Theism, and see it as un-Biblical, according to

Click below for links to some excellent books on the subject

John MacArthur goes so far as to say Open Theists may very well be worshiping "another god" than the God of Scripture.

What do you think, and why?


  1. Three questions:

    1/ Beyond the Bounds of what? No ancient creed talks about God having an absolute comprehensive fixed view of the future. Beyond the Bounds of Calvinism? Yes, absolutely. But that is just a point of view (Calvinism).

    2/ About God wringing his hands after reading the daily newspaper. Come on now, it is not helpful to characture a position inaccurately (though probably that wasn't your intention). The Open Theist view is that God knows everything about the past and present. And being infinitely knowledgeable and resourceful knows every permutation of every scenerio going forward. Hence, nothing happens that He hasn't at least foreseen as a possible scenerio and considered how He can bring good into that circumstances. (God working together all things for good ala Romans 8). God in the Open Theists point of view is anything but hand wringing - He is infinitely resourceful!

    3/ People debating Open Theism frequently counter the obvious meaning of texts that say that God repented or God changed his mind or that God has learned - by saying that they are anthropomorphisms. The question is anthropomorphisms of what? They are communicating something. My view is that considerable violence to the text has to be done to explain away these texts in another ways than their natural reading.

  2. Regarding your comment:

    "what do the "Open Theists" like Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, & John Sanders do with the myriad of passages throughout scripture like this?

    Isaiah 46:9-11 (ESV)"

    Here is a comment from Greg Boyd's website:

    The Lord says, “I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying ‘My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention.’”

    To distinguish himself from the dead idols Israel was devoted to, the Lord displayed his ability to do what dead idols cannot do: namely, control the flow of history. Hence the Lord says, “My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention,” which is why he can declare “from ancient times things not yet done.” For God to have this foreknowledge he need only know his own purposes and intentions. Unless one is willing to believe that everything throughout world history (including all evil) reflects God’s purposes and intentions, this verse can’t be used to defend the notion that everything throughout world history is foreknown.


    My comments are - because God has purposes in the future that He will bring about is an entirely different thing than saying God purposes and brings about everything that happens.

  3. Thanks for the comments and questions, Tim.

    As you can see in my blog heading, it is intended primarily for myself, my family, and friends. My intent in blogging is not to try debate and convince others outside of our family to believe like I believe, unless they are convicted by the Lord to do so.

    I realize that with the current settings on my blog allowing anyone to read and comment, I'll have readers with different beliefs and views, and I welcome them.

    As to your questions, I doubt these brief responses will seem sufficient or satisfactory, since your mind is already made up, but here goes...

    Question 1.
    "Beyond the Bounds" was in the title of the excellent book I referenced, and I'll agree with you that what is "Beyond the Bounds of Orthodox Christianity" to Piper, Taylor, etc. may be considered to be a subjective judgment to you, depending on your belief system as to what is Orthodox. You’re probably right that this wasn’t the main issue during the days of the ancient Creeds. Men like Athanasius were dealing with issues like the “Doctrine of the Trinity”, and Augustine was dealing with issues such as the “Pelagian Heresies”. And I'm by no means an expert on the Creeds, so I can't readily quote you something from them pertaining to this.

    Question 2.
    The phrase "reading the newspaper wringing His hands" is not original to me. A well respected and beloved former Pastor and friend of mine used to use say this, to get the point across to our congregation that God is Sovereign and in total control of All Things at All Times, and it kind of "stuck with me". His only daughter was tragically killed in a car accident at 16 y.o., and he rested in God's Sovereignty to get through this difficult time in his life.

    Question 3.
    As to "obvious meaning of texts", if you are going to apply that to your choice verses, then would you apply the same hermeneutics to all Scripture? Or only when it goes along with your theology? Consider the following verses with their "obvious meaning", and their "natural reading": (just a few of a plethora of Scriptures)

    (continued in next comment)

  4. Question 3 continued...

    1 Samuel 15:29 (ESV) And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for He is not a man, that He should have regret.
    (NASB, NIV, KJV, etc. use the words "will not change His mind" or "repent"

    Malachi 3:6 (ESV) "For I the Lord do not change..."

    Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

    And the list could go on, and on, and on.

    So which is it? When we encounter apparent "paradoxes" in Scripture where it appears to be saying one thing in one passage but the opposite in another passage, we can't pick the ones we like and ignore the ones we don't like. We have to agree that there must be some misunderstanding on our part. Scripture can not contradict Scripture. There are certainly some things that we may have to surrender to Deuteronomy 29:29 (the secret things belong to the Lord), but never the less, we are to "study to show ourselves approved", and "rightly divide the Word".

    Isaiah 55 tells us that the Lord's thoughts and ways are far above ours, and not the same as ours.

    And as for Anthropomorphisms, according to the Oxford English Pocket Dictionary, it's the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.
    So maybe Anthropopatheia would have been a better choice of words, which is defined as "the using of the ascription of human passions, actions, or attributes to God."
    And as E.W.Bullinger put it in his work "Figures of Speech in the Bible", "God, by using this figure, condescends to the ignorance and infirmity of man"

    I appreciate your comments and questions, and I don't anticipate being able to sway your views on Open Theism with mere intellectual reasoning or debating, unless the Holy Spirit does the work. (And I'm sure you're thinking the Holy Spirit needs to change my views-lol).

    That being said, I welcome and appreciate your comments, questions, Christian tone, and your position on this subject, and hope to hear from you again. We may just have to cordially "agree to disagree". I'm sure we could both go back and forth almost indefinitely with responses and counter responses, and wish we had the time. We would probably both be sharper in the end for doing so.

    Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone,

    If I'm going to err, I want to err on the side of God's Sovereignty.

    I'd rather stand before Him and have to say:
    "sorry Lord, I thought too highly of you, and gave You too much credit, I thought You were bigger and more Sovereign than You are"

    than to have to say:
    "sorry Lord, I thought too lowly of you, and didn't give you enough credit, I thought you were smaller and less Sovereign than You are"

    As John the Baptist said in John 3:30,
    "He must increase, but I must decrease."

  5. Oh, and by the way, here's an excerpt from a blog I wrote months ago on the subject of open theism:

    In recent years, Open Theists seem to have rekindled what is actually an old controversy by claiming that God does not have full foreknowledge of every "potential outcome" of the choices we make in our "free-will". That is to say that He does not know everything that is going to happen. This is not new. This is actually an old controversy.

    In the Eighteenth Century, Jonathan Edwards addressed this issue in his book "Freedom of the Will" (a shortened version of the original title)
    Edwards wrote:

    "First, I am to prove, that God has an absolute and certain foreknowledge of the free actions of moral agents. One would think it should be wholly needless to enter on such an argument with any that profess themselves Christians: but so it is, God’s certain foreknowledge of the free acts of moral agents is denied by some that pretend to believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God; especially of late."

    As "The Preacher" (or Hebrew "Qoheleth") wrote thousands of years ago in Ecclesiastes 1:9(ESV) What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN.