Monthly Archives: January 2013

Does God know everything or just everything that can be known?

If God does know a complete and inflexible future, is it possible for us to share a loving and interactive relationship with him?  Open theology holds that the future is at least partially undetermined and responsive to our impactful involvement.  Classic theology disagrees based on the time tested understanding that God knows everything.

Arguments in Favor of Open Theology

Try to imagine participating in a loving relationship with someone you can’t affect in anyway.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Acknowledging that his utter sovereignty includes allowing our choices to color the future describes a God wise and powerful enough to shape our paths without directly controlling everything we do.  That sounds like love.  Happily we see evidence of this flexibility when God tests the faith of individuals throughout the bible.  Had Abraham chosen not to sacrifice his son, God’s plan would have simply moved along a different path to the same destination.

A Problem with Openness

Believing in an open future allows for the possibility that God can be caught off guard.  This seems to limit God to the status of a comic book or movie superhero who possesses apparently unassailable wisdom and power until, against all odds, an exceptionally clever villain or even random chance undoes all her magnificent plans.[1]

Arguments Supporting Classic Theology

Since the beginning of Christianity, the vast majority of theologians have seen overwhelming evidence for God’s complete sovereignty and omniscience in the bible.  These millennia of careful study do not allow for a God who can be surprised and must guess at what is to come.  Limiting God’s sure knowledge of the future agrees with our understanding of free will and satisfies our sometimes overwhelming desire for rational understanding.  However, God invites us to have faith and find glory in the mystery of his being.

A Drawback of Classic Theology

Holding the future and all events as determined exclusively by God requires us to also hold him responsible for each specific instance of sin and tragedy.  While God certainly brings good and glory out of even the worse circumstance, it is deeply troubling to believe he planned and executed them as well.

In Conclusion

Rather than trying to wrestle God into our understanding it probably makes more sense to trust that He loves us, deeply desires our freely chosen love, and offers redemption for even our very worst choices.  We can then hold the seeming contradictions of his character in tension without doubting our relationship with our doting creator.

[1] Admittedly this type of character is almost always the villain rather than the hero, but one cannot draw an analogy between God and Dr Doom or Galacticus.


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