When discussing open theism with those who have a problem with it, the idea or fear of control always seems to come out. The argument is that if God does not know the future as one set of eternally settled facts how is he in control or ultimately sovereign? Not only is there all kinds of logical problems with this fear but its rooted in the false thinking that, in the open view, God can be surprised or learns something new as a result of human action. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
I’ll explain by looking at this using absolute terms. The proponent enters the path of thinking that God either settled the future as in the Calvinist view, or simply knows it but did not cause it as in the Arminian view. The assumption is that one can only truly know the future if the future is known in absolutes.
While open theism states that God knows the future as possibilities, I would add that God knows these possibilities as absolute. Therefore God absolutely knows all the possibilities of what will happen in the future. Because of his infinite absolute knowledge of all the possibilities God knows everything that may happen as well as knowing everything that will happen absolutely. Therefore what may and what will happen is no different in the mind of God because out of all the possibilities comes what will happen.
Therefore all possibilities are foreknown and a plan is in place. There is no possibility that God has not been prepared for since the beginning of time because he is infinitely intelligent and infinitely powerful.
So does God know what i’m going to have for lunch in 15 years. Yep, he knows I will have x, or x, or x, or x, or x etc and he knows I won’t have x, or x, or x, or x etc – absolutely. Divine foreknowledge is foreknowledge none the less regardless of the manner in which it is known.
Is God Less Sovereign in the Open View?
This is really the issue most proponents have. The claim is that the God of open theism is not sovereign unless he knows the future as one set of fixed events. The problem here is who then is defining what or what not makes God Sovereign?
If we say God needs to know the future as a set of eternally settled facts in order to be sovereign then we are really the ones defining his sovereignty. We are forcing our definitions or pre-conceived notions of what sovereignty is onto God, rather than letting the text define his sovereignty. Instead the text says he is in control and no matter the way in which he is, we are assured he ultimately is sovereign and in control.
But Ben, you say, the text clearly states that God states that his knowledge of the future is what sets him apart from other God’s. To that I agree, see above, God knows the future and that is what sets him apart from other God’s. Foreknowledge is foreknowledge no matter how he knows it.
I don’t need God to know the future as a set of eternally settled facts in order to be sovereign. I can fully resolve that he is sovereign, and can still be, even with an exhaustive knowledge of all the possibilities of the future. I know God is bigger and stronger and so Sovereign that nothing can stand in the way of the redemption and reconciliation of all things. What’s more is that I think a God whom can still “work all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11) amidst the possible choices of free agents, is a pretty powerful God.
In another post I will dive deeper on God’s relation to time and how many of the proponents of open theism use an analogy that places God in time even though they are a-temporal (meaning God is outside of time) in their theology.
If you are interested in an excellent paper written by a missionary named Thomas Belt to the AOG association download and read it here. It’s one of the most complete statements of Open Theism i’ve seen in a while.