Friday, September 07, 2007

does god know?

i am having another bout with my back. i am currently unable to sit for longer than a few minutes, and require the assistance of a cane to walk very far. however, i have received by way of phone calls and emails lots of encouragement to pursue the topics in my last post. as always, i welcome any form of communication and dialogue, but encourage them in teh form of comments on this blog.

since i am unable to sit very long, i will just cut and paste from tim challies, who has a reputable blog with a wealth of information. the following is taken from this post from 2005.

Open theism is a relatively new doctrine that has only gained
popular prominence since 1994 with the release of the book
The Openness of God which was written by five evangelical
scholars and edited by Clark Pinnock. What began on the fringes
of scholarship has quickly gained a popular following, in part because
of the publication of entry-level titles such as Gregory Boyd’s
God of the Possible and in part because of the acceptance of the
doctrine by various popular authors.

While many evangelicals do not embrace this doctrine themselves,
they may regard it as an optional doctrine that remains within the
pale of orthodox evangelicalism. This article will define the doctrine,
describe its chief characteristics, introduce its proponents and explain
the challenge to the church.

A Definition
This is a definition I have adapted from
“open theism is a sub-Christian theological construct which
claims that God’s highest goal is to enter into a reciprocal relationship
with man. In this scheme, the Bible is interpreted without any
anthropomorphisms - that is, all references to God’s feelings, surprise
and lack of knowledge are literal and the result of His choice to create a
world where He can be affected by man’s choices. God’s exhaustive
knowledge does not include future free will choices by mankind because
they have not yet occurred.”

One of the leading spokesmen of open theism, Clark Pinnock,
in describing how libertarian freedom trumps God’s omniscience
says, “Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known
even by God. They are potential—yet to be realized but not yet
actual. God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do,
but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery
of human freedom … The God of the Bible displays an openness
to the future (i.e. ignorance of the future) that the traditional view
of omniscience simply cannot accommodate.”
(Pinnock, “Augustine to Arminius, ” 25-26)

Defining Characteristics
Open theism is characterized in several ways:
God’s greatest attribute is love. God’s love
so overshadowsHis other characteristics that He
could never allow or condone
evil or suffering to befall mankind.

Man has libertarian free will. Man’s will has not been so effected
by the Fall that he is unable to make a choice to follow God. God
respects man’s freedom of choice and would not infringe upon it.

God does not have exhaustive knowledge of the future. Indeed,
He cannot know certain future events because the future exists
only as possibility. God is unable to see what depends on the choices
of free will agents simply because this future does not yet exist, so
it unknowable. In this way open theists attempt to reconcile this
doctrine with God’s ominiscience.

God takes risks. Because God cannot know the future,
He takes risks in many ways - creating people, giving
them gifts and abilities, and so on. Where possibilities
exist, so does risk.

God learns. Because God does not know the future
exhaustively, He learns, just as we do.

God is reactive. Because He is learning, God is constantly
reacting to the decisions we make.

God makes mistakes. Because He is learning and reacting,
always dealing with limited information, God can and does
make errors in judgment which later require re-evaluation.

God can change His mind. When God realizes He has made
an error in judgment or that things did not unfold as He supposed,
He can change His mind.

The most important thing to note is that God knows the future only
as it is not dependent on human, free-will decisions. God does not
know what any free-will agents (ie humans) will do, because those
decisions do not yet exist and God cannot know what does not exist.
God decided, in Creation, that He would limit Himself in this way in
order to give complete freedom to human beings. Therefore, God does
not know or control the future - He learns from our decisions and
constantly adapts as necessary. He often needs to change His mind
or re-evaluate His options as the future unfolds.


i hope you have found tim's summary helpful... and appalling.
next post we'll pick up with some of the chief proponents of this view and what they say about it.. do you see any troubling implications if this doctrine is true? do you know of any biblical support for it?

but before we get there, i would love to get your initial reactions to this doctrine that is taught in pulpits and written about in books sold in your local christian churches and bookstores.


a wandering heart said...

This theory seems to imply that we are god and He is not. Scary.

Shaun said...

This has always been an interesting discussion to have. For me, it always boils to trying to use words that make no sense when dealing with an eternal being. There is no past or future from God's perspective. The word "changing" does not make sense, because it carries with it the implication that in the past, someone used to be this way, and now at the present time, they are not. God doesn't follow a linear timeline - or any timeline at all. God doesn't have to know what you are going to do because, from his perspective, you are always doing it right now.

It's a hard concept to wrap our minds around but this allows for God's omniscience to not conflict with man's free will. All because of God's eternal nature.

Mike Gross said...

Let me first say that we are praying about your back situation. Don't hesitate to let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

Next, on the issue of open theism, I have often thought I personally would not find much comfort in a God who risks and shoots from the hip on all of his decisions, no matter how loving.

Thanks for the post!

stephen lee cavness said...

lauren, shaun, and mike, thanks for your comments...

shaun, i would like some clarificationon something. you stated that
God doesn't follow a linear timeline - or any timeline at all. God doesn't have to know what you are going to do because, from his perspective, you are always doing it right now.

that is confusing to me, because being outside of time does not seem to necessitate that events happen continually...

maybe you can help me understand your point a little better

and since the bible itself makes use of time (though it does not constrain god to it) "in the beginning.." then jesus went... "only the father the knows the time...", it would seem to be acceptable to speak of time as a viable measurement.

Shaun said...

I sometimes think of it like this. Time is a book that is already finished. It follows a timeline one page after another. Now, God reads each page of this book at the same time, not one right after another. So everything that happens in time is folded over itself so that, to God, it is all happening at the same time. So, me eating frosted flakes this morning for breakfast is happening concurrently to Moses parting of the Red Sea - in "God time". I hope that helps explain my view. I am probably not doing it justice.

And it makes sense that time would be used in the Bible because the Bible is for our benefit, and it would not make sense to write it from God's perspective because we would have no hope to understand it. As characters in the book, we do not easily comprehend a world outside of the book...

I am not at all an expert on the matter. This is just me trying to work out what it means to apply the word eternal to God.

stephen lee cavness said...

i think this discussin is helpful, thank you for joining in.

i think we are aiming at two different targets.

the importance of whether or not the views of open theism are accurate or not have huge implications as to who god is, how we are saved, if we are, etc.

i dont want to misrepresent what you are saying.. but where your example seems to fail is that it appears that the "book" is completed before god reads it. this would imply that, before having read the completd work, that he did not know what was going to happen, even though he could turn to any point in the book ("time") whenever he wanted.

this is my concern. of course the bible uses anthropomorphic language so our finite minds could comprehend what the lord wants us to know, but i do not think it does so at the expense of what it reveals about the attributes of god.

shaun, would you agree that there was a "time" (for lack of a better word) when nothing existed except for the godhead?


Shaun said...

Well, from our vantage point, yeah I would.

But not from God's. I would wager that the word "before" doesn't make sense because God has no past or future. From God's perspective, his creation has always exist, just as his complete knowledge of his creation has always existed. There is no point in which God has not read the whole book.

stephen lee cavness said...

god is eternal... yes.

but the created order is not. there has to be a point where the world/universe/etc. were created, otherwise they would all have to be eternal.

time is a concept. i agree to that. but it does not limit god. he does exist outside of it. i agree to that as well.

but there was a point where there was nothing, and then he created. there was a before and an after. to deny that takes away his place as "creator".