The Baleful Heart of Open Theism

The heart of open theism is the conviction that humans and angels can be morally responsible only if they have ultimate self-determination— and have it to the degree that their self-determination rules out God's ability to render or see any of their future free acts as certain.2 Therefore, open theism's most obvious departure from historic Christianity is its denial of the exhaustive, definite foreknowledge of God. This departure

1 Thomas C. Oden, "The Real Reformers Are Traditionalists," Christianity Today 42, no. 2 (9 February 1998): 45.

2 Gregory Boyd, and all open theists, distance themselves from the view that says there is compatibility between human responsibility, on the one hand, and God's ability to render future free acts certain, on the other hand. Thus Boyd says that his view of "self-determining freedom" "contrasts with 'compatibilist' freedom, which sees human (and angelic) freedom as compatible with determinism. This view is thus sometimes called 'incompatibilistic freedom'" (Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy [Downers Grove, 1ll.: InterVarsity Press, 2001], 428).

10 beyond the bounds is obscured by the protest of open theists that they do affirm the omniscience of God. They argue that self-determining free will creates choices that have no reality before they are created and therefore are not possible objects of knowledge—even to God. They would say that not to know a no-thing does not undermine omniscience. And, they add, truly free choices are no-thing before they are made. The clearest statement of this protest is from Gregory Boyd's book, Letters from a Skeptic:

In the Christian view God knows all of reality—everything there is to know. But to assume He knows ahead of time how every person is going to freely act assumes that each person's free activity is already there to know—even before he freely does it! But it's not. If we have been given freedom, we create the reality of our decisions by making them. And until we make them, they don't exist. Thus, in my view at least, there simply isn't anything to know until we make it there to know. So God can't foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people He creates until He creates these people and they, in turn, create their decisions.3

Boyd clarifies this in his more scholarly books by affirming that God can indeed know with certainty some future volitions of man and angels, if God himself overrules the self-determining will and inclines it in a certain direction.4 In other words, God can know ahead of time what he intends to do in his freedom, but not what we intend to do in our freedom. He can know with certainty what we will choose if he intrudes on our self-determination and renders our choice certain. But at that point, to the degree that God renders our choice certain, our accountability dis-

3 Gregory Boyd, in Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions About Christianity (Wheaton, 11l.: Victor, 1994), 30, emphasis added. Cf. his statement in God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2000): ". . . future free decisions do not exist (except as possibilities) for God to know until free agents make them" (120). Similarly, Clark Pinnock wrote in 1990, "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. . . . God too faces possibilities in the future, and not only certainties. God too moves into a future not wholly known . . ." ("From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology," in The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, ed. Clark H. Pinnock [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1989; Minneapolis: Bethany, 1995], 25-26).

4 Boyd would say that there is a category of actions that God can foreknow with certainty, but which he does not determine, namely, acts done by people whose self-wrought characters are so solidified in good or evil that they cannot do otherwise. For those agents who have "eternalized" themselves in this way, God can even determine, if he chooses, some of their future volitions. For further explanation and interaction, see the chapters in this volume by Wellum, Ware, and Helseth.

Foreword 11

appears.5 Therefore, in the view of open theism most good and evil choices that humans make are unknown by God before they happen.6

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