Open Theism

Does God know future free choices?

Will God know all about choices in heaven? Even within the Trinity? Or at least about major choices? For it would not be much good to only have incidental choices be free, and not major ones, for example, when God makes “all things new,” as in the new creation. How can this be free, if the decision to create the world anew is known? Yet how can it be a perfect decision, if there could be disagreement within the Trinity?

And if the perfect decision is unique, then it would also be known, simply by deduction.

Not knowing future free choices would make it difficult to plan perfectly, it would seem, and thus God still might be susceptible to mistakes of judgment, even in a perfect world, and then we might not always have the best outcome, even in heaven.

Similarly in Revelation, if the events involved in Rev. 9:20-21 (“the rest of mankind … did not repent”) and even more so, in Rev. 13:18 (“all inhabitants [not written in the book of life] will worship the beast”) were not born yet at the time Revelation was written, then this cannot be character solidification, and must again be sure, and unconditional, and God knows the future, even where human choices are involved, as shown also here:

Acts 11:14  He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.

How can this be known, if future free-will decisions are unknowable? And similarly here:

Acts 16:31  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

This is a promise! And not just an estimate.

“Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen” (Isa. 44:7).

But isn’t this a challenge for any aspect of the future to be really foretold? So then God must be referring to all the future, when he says this:

“Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?”

Any aspect of the future, God has declared it, and from the beginning…

Isaiah 45:21  Declare what is to be, present it– let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord?

In the Open View God is said to consider all possibilities, and yet presumably he also knows how he would choose, in any given, completely described situation. If this is true, then how can God’s future actions be said to be free? And would there any reason to postpone a decision, except to be able to say that you can make future free actions? It doesn’t seem that there is.

So now we have all future free decisions required to be spur-of-the-moment ones. Such as God’s decision to create the world? Must we say that God did not know whether he would create the world, up until the very moment when he said “Let there be light”? This seems improbable. If this was the situation, though, then must we say that God needed more time to decide? And that it took him up to the last moment, to actually make the decision? Again, this seems improbable.

And if God does not know how he would act, in any completely described, hypothetical situation, this would discount what people consider to be part of God’s omniscience, for then God doesn’t know all there is to know about himself.

And also, if God can never decide, before he acts, if he is making a free decision, then no prophecies are free decisions, and no promises, either. Such as the new heavens and the new earth! This second act of creation is not free, even if the first one was.

And also God tells people, in some real sense, all that he will do:

Amos 3:7 Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

And now none of God’s acts are free! But this, it seems, will not do.

1 Peter 1:20  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

Revelation 13:8 … and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

Now a book of life, written before the foundation of the world, with some not written in it, must imply that God knew the fall would indeed occur, and also that some specific, named people, would not repent. And the NIV is even stronger:

Revelation 13:8 … the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

When Peter said “You know all things” (Jn. 21:17), Jesus confirmed this with another prophecy about his future: in the final trial, Peter would be faithful, instead of denying him. So Jesus is confirming here that he indeed knows all things, and this knowledge includes the future, and this knowledge also includes future human choices, free choices, for Peter’s choice to die for Christ would be a choice of love.

Here is one verse that might support the Open View in this area:

Jud 3:4 And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

But did not God know their hearts? Other similar verses are Deut. 8:2, 2 Chr. 32:31.

And here are verses that seem to say the opposite of Judges 3:4:

1KI 8:39 Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men).

PS 44:21 … would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?

See also Luke 16:15,  John 5:42, Acts 1:24, Acts 15:8, 1 John 3:20.

So how can we resolve this apparent discrepancy? The answer, it may be, is in Psalm 139, where David says both, “you know me” (verses 1-6), and “search and know me” (verse 23). So “know” would be used in two different senses here, the first would seem to refer more to factual knowledge, you know “when I sit down and when I get up, each word on my tongue, all my ways.” And the second seems to refer more to the sense that “know” has when it is used in the context of relationships, to “know intimately,” that is, knowledge in the sense of 1 Cor. 8:3: “But the man who loves God is known by God.”

At the last judgment, when all the facts are on the table, Jesus will still turn to the ones on his left hand and says, “I never knew you.” So this would not be factual knowledge. Or in Psalm 104:

NAU Psalm 101:4 A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil [“I will not know wickedness”–NKJV].

Which certainly doesn’t mean not knowing about evil in a factual way. And for the elect, we have “The Lord knows those who are his,” where know has this deeper, relational sense.

1 Peter 1:20  “Who verily was foreordained…”

“Or ‘foreknown’; that is, by God; and which intends, not barely his prescience of Christ, of what he should be, do, and suffer; but such a previous knowledge of him, which is joined with love and affection to him; not merely as his own Son, and the express image of his person, but as Mediator; and whom he loved before the world was, and with a love of complacency and delight, and which will last for ever.” (John Gill)

We can note that God makes an unconditional promise to bless Abraham, and yet later says “now I know,” and “because you have done this, I will bless you.”

Both Genesis 15:18 and Genesis 22:16-18 mention God giving to Abraham’s descendants, and the first passage is unconditional, God passed through the midst of the divided calf alone, meaning he was the only one being required to uphold the covenant, yet the second passage is conditional.

Also, the Septuagint translates “now I know” as aorist, “I have known,” perhaps? As in Young’s translation: “for now I have known that thou art fearing God.”

Certainly a minority translation, but still apparently quite possible, and this may even have been what the Septuagint translators had in mind, as the same Greek phrase is translated “I have known,” in Rom. 7:7, and “now I know” might have been better expressed in some other way (as in Acts 12:11; Acts 20:25, or the present tense, 1 Cor. 13:12).

Genesis 2:19  Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them…

Did God not know what Adam would choose for names? Well, further on, we read:

Genesis 2:20  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.

Does this then clearly show that God didn’t know if a suitable helper would be found? Yet surely God was not wondering if Adam might find a helper, God must have known all the creatures, and whether any of them would be suitable, so this would imply that God was actually not trying to find out information about the future in this incident.

So in the checking of all the animals, two aspects were being considered: what Adam would name it, and whether it was a suitable companion. In the second case, we may conclude that this was already known by God, and thus similarly with the other consideration. These could even be considered to both be facts about the future, whether a suitable companion would be found, and what Adam would name them.

And yet there may be some picturing for us of some element of experiencing an event here, even by God, there may be some aspect of his experience which corresponds in some way to what we experience as surprise. Though it would certainly be difficult to know what or how much God could experience of this, yet some sense of surprise may be actually depicted here:

Matthew 26:50 Jesus replied, “Friend, why have you come?” (NIV margin).

Though Jesus knew that Judas would betray him.

(I would consider that the NIV marginal reading may well be correct here, for why would Jesus be telling Judas to do what he had come for, when he had just done just that?)

So perhaps an appropriate way to interpret Gen. 2:19 above would be to hold that this indicates God speaking as if he had our perspective, as here:

Genesis 18:20-21  Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

Yet the Lord actually remained there with Abraham:

Genesis 18:22  The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.

Then this would indicate that “I will know” was not referring to information, God must have known the situation there at Sodom, as was indicated about his readiness to answer Abraham’s questions without investigating further, about whether, if forty, or even ten righteous people were found there, he would spare it.

Genesis 22:12  “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Did God not know this about Abraham, before he went to offer Isaac?

Genesis 22:16-17  “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you…”

But God had made a similar, unconditional promise prior to this:

Genesis 15:17-18  When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…

Which indicates that God knew that the condition, stated later in the promise given on Mount Moriah, would be fulfilled, and thus God knew that Abraham would be faithful, and that he feared God, and knowing this, an unconditional promise could be made, as well as a conditional one.

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