>Open Theism, Sin, and Fogiveness

Posted: 07/11/2008 in Open Theism, sin

>Most of you who know me know that I am quite open about being an Open Theist. I think in those terms and have long since let it be part of my devotional life. There’s one place that the implications of Open Theism is not always looked at: sin, regret, and forgiveness.

There need be no reason to list sins specifically. We can all think of times in which we have hurt those we care about. We have all lost patience with our close friends. We have all treated those of the opposite gender horribly. We have all failed to be fair to our parents/children/siblings. Let the reader fill in the blanks themselves. All that I need to emphasize here is how sin damages our relationships with one another.

Realizing our sin, we feel a desire to seek forgiveness from those we offend. This step is not a simple process. We first regret our actions, that is to say we wish we had done differently. The friend says to another, “I could not have, but I did, become unfairly angry towards you.” The boy says to the girl, “I wish I had not made you cry.” Intertwined with regret, is that feeling of contingency: things could have been different. They should’ve been different. God wanted them to be different, but through our actions we frustrated, in some way, God’s plans.

God’s forgiveness comes after this. The God who makes all things new gives the offended the ability to forgive the offender. The relationship is restored.
How does Open Theism relate to this? Open Theism makes sense of the regret and feeling of contingency. Because time is not a straight line of everything God knows, but rather a web of possibilities, the offender can look at the past and understand fully that things might’ve been different. There is a very strong sense of truly having prevented some good in the world. The harm that the offender caused did not have to be.

Traditional Arminianism does not make sense of these feelings. In fact, it gives the offender a subconscious excuse. If God knows precisely every action we will take, then we needn’t feel regret because God, enshrined outside of time, saw it coming as a certainty anyway. Time is settled, so what we did could have been no other way. We need not worry because God works out all things good. No harm done. No serious need to apologize.

Open Theists do not have this luxury. Open Theists feel a greater sense of responsibility because we can never use God’s foreknowledge as an excuse. We can never subconsciously deny our free will in these matters.

Many Arminianins will deny this. They likely insist that they feel the same regret that Open Theists do. I reply that this is undoubtedly the case. Now why? How can such feelings make sense if every single choice is lined up in a straight line that God already knows?

  1. Biomusician says:

    >Thank-you for another peek into a corner of open theism. We appreciate it.In your first blog about open theism, you said that one of its tenants is that God is not “outside of time.” I appreciated all the thought behind those quotation marks.And I think I’ve been an open theist longer than I’ve known about open theism.

  2. Jonathan says:

    >Thanks for sharing your thoughts, J. One question. Could you explain this, a little further? You said…”If God knows precisely every action we will take, then we needn’t feel regret because God, enshrined outside of time, saw it coming as a certainty anyway.”So…1. I sin2. God foreknows3. Therefore, God foreknows my sin 4. Therefore, we do not regretCould you help me follow from 3 to 4? Thanks!Jon

  3. Jin-roh says:

    >Thanks for reading Jon!To clarify the construction is more like this:1. God foreknows (exactly) all my actions.2. In order for me to regret a past action, that action must be contingent (could have been different).3. If God foreknew all my past actions before I did them, they were NOT contingent. God cannot be wrong, surprised, etc.4. Therefore, regret is a little artificial. I can use God’s foreknowledge to cover it up this bad feeling.

  4. -k-anne- says:

    >your blog is so deep… and intelligent. mine will just get nerdy when i’m in grad school. haha!

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