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A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

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A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby steve » Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:02 pm

I was asked about Open Theism by a friend who's brother says he is of that viewpoint. I wrote and described Openness as affirming that the "not yet" is a content-free category in which there is nothing to be known—by God or anyone else. His brother responded that I was incorrect, and that his view was that God could know the future, if He wished, but that He chooses to remain ignorant of it. I wrote back to the effect that this view is not really the view of Open Theists with whom I am familiar (I post my response below).

My question to you who are Open Theists: Am I mistaken? Or is he? I often represent the Openness view as I have below, and do not wish to continue doing so if I am misrepresenting it. Here is the response I sent him:

Hi G—,

The way I represented Openness Theology is accurate to the way it has been held by every Open Theist I have read and been in dialogue with in the past thirty-eight years. It is the view that has been advocated by the earliest and most prominent Open Theists. I personally knew Clark Pinnock, who was one of the most famous and controversial advocates of the view in the evangelical movement..

One of the most important problems that Openness is proposed to solve is the fact that, if God knows the future, then future actions of individuals cannot go otherwise than He knows, and are, therefore, determined. This destroys the possibility of free will. It was in the interest of preserving the truth of free will that Openness arose challenging the absolute foreknowledge of God (I first read such authors in 1980).

Because future freely-chosen actions are not, in fact, predetermined, but are subject to free-will choices that have not yet been made, they currently exist in no realm, and cannot be known even by God. Nothing is there to know. If God could foreknow them, it would be only because, in some realm accessible only to God, they are choices that have already been made, and cannot freely be made by agents in "real time."

Openness says that these choices not only are not, but cannot be, known—because they are non-realities, at the present time. If your brother's view is true, then future choices could be known by God, but simply are not. This still assumes that they exist in some realm to (possibly) be known, and are therefore determined—and does nothing to solve the conundrum that Openness was formulated to resolve. Openness theologians would not have "freely chosen" this explanation.

I have heard people express your brother's views (namely, that God could know the future if He chose, but often chooses to remain ignorant), but such people have not called themselves Open Theists. If the whole movement has shifted so as to affirm your brother's view, in recent years, it has occurred without my noticing, and apart from the notice of the Open Theists I know.

I have a number of friends who are mainstream Open Theists, and I have read many others. They all say the same thing that I have represented to be their views. Your brother's views are familiar to me, though I have never heard them labeled Open Theism. In fact, I am not currently aware of any name that has been given to them. The people I have heard expressing this position are usually people who have been convinced by Open Theists that God does not know our future choices, but are not ready to overthrow God's ability to know the future. It is a compromise—sort of a "halfway house"—between Historical Theology and Openness Theology.

Blessings!

Steve
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby Paidion » Sat Aug 25, 2018 11:54 am

Steve, you have represented very well the view of open theists that the future choices of free-will agents cannot be known in advance. They can be predicted based on related knowledge but cannot be known in the absolute sense of the word "know." And of course, God is in a much better position to correctly predict the choices of people since He has TOTAL knowledge of every aspect of each person's mind, desires, past choices, etc. Even I have predicted correctly what my children would choose on many occasions based on my PARTIAL knowledge of my children.

As you may remember, I was an open theist before I had ever encountered the term. One time when I expressed my thoughts on the forum, you pointed out that this was the open theist position. That was the first time I had ever heard of the term "open theism."

When I looked into open theism further, I learned that the belief that the future choices of free-will agents cannot be known is JUST ONE aspect of open theism—and not the chief one. The main feature of the view concerns the close relationship between God and His people—so close, in fact, that God who fully loves His people, is willing to listen to their wishes, and sometimes even changes His intentions in response to them.
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby mattrose » Sat Aug 25, 2018 10:36 pm

I also believe you've been representing open theism accurately.

I remember, a while back, I was reading something by Dallas Willard that made me think he might be taking the 'willful ignorance' view. But he was also reluctant to take the label 'open theist' as far as I know.
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby steve » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:19 pm

You know, I recently heard that Dallas Willard held the willing ignorance position. Perhaps that is what my friend's brother has been reading.
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby Singalphile » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:41 pm

I don't know anything about what is or isn't mainstream or common among open theists, but I've certainly heard and considered the possibility that God chooses not to know.

I think that for some people, open theism isn't primarily about solving complex mysteries like foreknowledge and free will. Rather, it's about making sense of God as someone who genuinely relates to us and communicates with us and responds and reacts to us and has emotions with us and for us and so on.

Maybe that's more of where the guy's coming from.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby RickC » Mon Aug 27, 2018 11:59 pm

I'm aware that some Open Theists are of the opinion that God only knows what can be known, i.e., that God's foreknowledge is limited (as in not exhaustive).

I've never held this version of OT, though I looked into it via youtube lectures & debates.

As it turned out, I found a lecture by Greg Boyd on youtube and I essentially agreed with everything he said. (Actually, I discussed this on this forum fairly extensively some time ago).

In any event, Greg Boyd's (and my) position on foreknowledge & Open Theism can be summed up something like this:

1. God knows all things
2. Some things are settled (predetermined to obtain no matter what)
3. Some things are possibilities
4. God knows all possibilities as if they were certainties
5. When people excercise free will --- (possibilities, above) -- God has a ready-made response for each of them (the millions & billions & trillions of them)!

Thus, Greg Boyd says "God is a LOT smarter" in this view, and as compared to Arminian or Calvinist views.

Briefly summarized: God knows all things, whether settled in advance or future options that people choose to do. God is ready to respond to ANYTHING & EVERTHING [caps for emphasis].

I'll post the Greg Boyd lecture here, soon as I find it.
In it he was introduced by Clark Pinnock, not real long before Clark died.
Greg Boyd is also funny!
OK. Thanks! :)
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby RickC » Tue Aug 28, 2018 1:08 am

Singalphile wrote:I don't know anything about what is or isn't mainstream or common among open theists, but I've certainly heard and considered the possibility that God chooses not to know.

I think that for some people, open theism isn't primarily about solving complex mysteries like foreknowledge and free will. Rather, it's about making sense of God as someone who genuinely relates to us and communicates with us and responds and reacts to us and has emotions with us and for us and so on.

Maybe that's more of where the guy's coming from.


First (and in a more direct response to Steve): This is the first time I've ever heard of any Open Theists holding to a view that 'God chooses not to know' (apparently, at least some, if not many things). I don't really follow 'new trends' in the view, being satisfied by Greg Boyd's presentation (link at the bottom of page). Also, if God chose not to know some things, how would it be that He could choose what not to know, if He didn't already know what not to know? (Strange), :shock:

But otherwise, anyone who considers OT has that 'initial hurdle' of: "How much does God know?" and "In what sense does He know?"

Then you have the obvious (and usual) objections to OT: that God's knowledge is limited.

Greg Boyd provided the solution to the 'not exhaustive'. Actually, Greg (and I) would say, "God's foreknowedge is exhaustive. But this exhaustiveness is comprised of both settled things and possible things."

Also, on God's responsiveness to us (as you wrote above). This was one of the primary issues for Greg Boyd's delving into the topic. In scripture, God actually responds to people and changes His mind. Was it to Hezekiah(?) that God said "You're going to die soon" -- but (whoever it was) interacted with God & God allowed him to live several years longer.

The point here being: If God said he would die soon -- but knew he wouldn't -- "Was He just jacking the guy around?" (Greg Boyd's wording). OR was it: God knew and even decreed! the guy would die soon -- and told the guy -- then the guy responded and God changed his mind? And so on & so forth . . . .

Boyd takes this 'Open Theism Options' theme further in the video, giving a VERY MOVING example from his real life pastoral counselling.

Here's a playlist I made (in segments). I found another one that has the whole lecture, but the intro by Clark Pinnock is missing. There's a Q&A at the end, which is OK. But one guy was windy & took things off track.

I've forgotten how to put a link's name in the URL!
The title of the vid is:
Greg Boyd: A Flexible Sovereignty: An Open View of the Future

Link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL982E3A46FA846DD3
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby mattrose » Wed Sep 05, 2018 3:26 pm

I was just reading an older book from Roger Olson titled "Questions to All Your Answers"

On page 97 he says "But what if God has a blueprint for your life but somehow hides from himself whether or not you will live according to it? (A group of evangelicals called open theists believe God limits his knowledge so that he does not always already know every future free decision a person will make)."

Now, I know as a near certainty that Roger Olson knows better now (this book is from 2007) than to say Open Theists believe God hides from himself or somehow self-limits his knowledge. I think this speaks to the fact that many people who are not yet very familiar with open theism just completely misunderstand it.
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Re: A question of clarification for our Open Theist friends

Postby Paidion » Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:31 pm

Correct, Matt. A true open theist believes that ANYONE knowing in advance what a free will agent will choose, is a contradiction in terms—just as contradictory as to say that someone can know that all dogs have six legs.

Like other Christians, open theists believe that God is omniscient. He knows everything there is to know.
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