against open theism

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Really Recommended Posts 7/29/16- Open Theism, Jason Bourne, and more!

postHello dear readers! Thanks for stopping in! Check out the latest round of “Really Recommended Posts,” brought to you by me! This week we have posts that argue against open theism–do the arguments work, though?, the Bourne movies, Mary and women in the church, objective truth for kids, and young earth creationism and geology of Egypt. As always, let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors know as well!

The Open Future Precludes Present Motion– Alexander Pruss, one of the most interesting philosophers to follow, in my opinion, presents here an argument that open theism entails premises which mean present motion is impossible. I commented on the post arguing that most open theists allow for certain parts of the future to be knowable; just not those impacted by free will. I haven’t seen that comment pop up yet. Pruss followed with a post about how open theism eliminates the possibility to speak truthfully that is an even more intriguing argument. What do you think?

Surveillance and Revelation in the Bourne Movies– The Jason Bourne movies have much going on in them to reflect upon from a Christian perspective. Here’s a post exploring some of these dimensions.

Mary’s Truth– Women were the first evangelists. Mary was one of these first evangelists. We ought not to strip away the legacy such women left behind.

Truth in a Box– How might you discuss objective truth with kids? Here’s a way to use a concrete example to introduce the notion of truth no matter what anyone thinks about it.

Squeezing the Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt into the Young Earth Paradigm: An Impossible* Task– How do young earth creationists account for things like a canyon as large as the Grand Canyon that has been completely covered with sediment since its formation? Check out this post to see how YEC fails to account for certain physical realities.


Against Open Theism: Scrooge and God’s knowledge of the Future

I was listening to William Lane Craig’s Defenders podcast (Doctrine of God: Part 13) and he brought up an interesting analogy about omniscience. He discussed Scrooge in Dickens’ “Christmas Carol.” The last spirit to appear to Scrooge is the ghost of Christmas to come. He takes Scrooge around and shows him all sorts of disturbing imagery that will happen. Scrooge asks the ghost whether these are things that must happen, or whether he can stop them. The spirit remains silent.

Craig pointed out the spirit would have to remain silent to have any sort of effect. For suppose the spirit knows what will happen: that Scrooge will repent and so these awful things won’t happen. But then if he tells Scrooge what he knows, Scrooge will feel little remorse about not acting to prevent them. Yet if the spirit told Scrooge these things would happen, then Scrooge has no reason to modify his behavior, for he cannot prevent the events from happening.

Craig suggests, then, that we should look at omniscience and instances of God “changing his mind” in the same fashion. This has some interesting applications in the case of Open Theism, because it undermines one of the core exegetical arguments for the position: cases of God “repenting” or “changing his mind.”

God, on classical theism, knows what will happen in every circumstance. He comprehensively knows the future (contra Open Theism). If this is so, then God would have to withhold some of his knowledge in order to bring things about, despite his knowledge that it would occur. Like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, God would know the answer to Scrooge’s question, but would not answer him, so that he could bring it about that Scrooge would repent.

Consider Jonah. Open Theists often point to the story of Nineveh as an example of God not comprehensively knowing the future. Because God sends Jonah with the message that Nineveh will be destroyed, but then, when Nineveh repents, he shows mercy, many people say that God did not know the Ninevites would have such a reaction. Yet why should this be the case? Isn’t it plausible that God did know they would repent and that God sent the message that they would be destroyed because that is the only way Nineveh would be led to repentance? This is, in fact, hinted at later in the book, when Jonah says to God, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (4:2).

But if God had told the Ninevites “I will not destroy you” because he knew that he would not, would not the impetus of Jonah’s message lose its strength. With the threat of destruction, the Ninevites repented. Without, would they have done so? Imagine Jonah’s message going through the streets “Forty more days and Nineveh will not be destroyed!” I think it obvious that this would probably not have the same effect that the initial message was.

So it seems quite plausible that God, like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (in our analogous case), may refrain from telling all he knows at many points throughout Scripture. For if he told people everything he knew, he would know that they would not repent, turn aside from their evil ways, or bring about the actions he desired. The instances wherein God ‘changes his mind’ or ‘repents’ are instances of this: rather than revealing his knowledge, God withholds it, in order to bring about the ends that he desires to (and knows will) happen. We, like Scrooge, would not respond to calls for repentance if we felt it didn’t make a difference in the end.

Final note: the above account implicitly assumes molinism to be the case. So much the better for it, I say!


This is part of a series I’ve written against the doctrine of Open Theism. If you’d like to read more, check out the original post for discussion and links.


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