>CARM.org on Open Theism Part I (Equivocation)

Posted: 27/06/2009 in CARM, Matt Slick, Open Theism

>There are things that Open Theism is and there are things that it is not. Some time ago, I visited CARM’s take on Open Theism. While I understand that CARM’s goal is to be concise, it still does not seem to me that the presentation of what Open Theism is, its basic arguments, and the issues it deals with was fair. What better place to talk about it then here?

As a disclaimer, I liked CARM when I was about twenty or something. It was one of the first places that I started looking into apologetics. However, I can’t say that I support it too much now. Apologetics –and evangelicalism- cannot be so simply tied down to a series of flow charts. I guess I am saying this so that readers can have some idea of my view of CARM and Matt Slick’s approach to things in general.

CARM seems to misrepresent and/or misunderstand Open Theism. The first big mistake, and one that Open Theists (including this one) are tired of hearing, is the claim about “the future.” Slick places it under Basic Tenants of Open Theism. Here it is:

God does not know the future.
1. This is either because God cannot know the future because it does not exist, or…
2. It is because God chooses to not know the future even though it can be known.

No. No. No. A thousand times No. There is a serious sense of equivocation in the word “know” here, as I hope to explain. Open Theism says that God does know the future. The difference is there is a disagreement about what the future is. Open Theism says that the future can only be known as a set of possibilities. It cannot be known like the past or like the present. It might be correct to say “God does not know (exactly) what you will do tomorrow” but this does not mean, as one might be led to believe by the above statement, that God is simply cosmically ignorant about future events.

It is better to say that “God knows what you might do tomorrow, and every other possibility.” It is the nature of the future to be possibilities, so there is no more threat to omniscience here than if I said something like “God does not know square circles.” It is the nature of squares to not be circles. It is the nature of the future to be possibilities only.

Slick seems to want to use the term “know” in a univocal way. So that unless God knows something exhaustively it is not knowing. It is correct, to Open Theists, to say that God can know the present exhaustively, because everything is there to be known. However, if God knows the future exhaustively/exactly, then the one must also assume that future is something different. It must exist in some way. It must be in some sense actual so that God can “know” it, but this assumes certain ideas about time that are not addressed in scripture. That idea of time is a hidden assumption that Open Theists do not share.

In short, what I am trying to explain is that a statement like “Open Theism teaches that God does not know the future” is a misunderstanding at best and underhanded over-simplification at worst. Open Theists of course do not think that God knows the future in the same sense that classical theists do. Otherwise, there would be no disagreement at all. The disagreement not that God is ignorant but rather whether something like “the future” can logically be known in the same way that the present or past is.

And in general, if you want to know the basic tenants of Open Theism, it would be smarter to go to a site run by an Open Theist.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for part II

  1. D2M says:

    >Never been to CARM. What I hear about them tends to make them sound unfriendly. Frankly, I'm glad I found Tweb. (They aren't perfect, but they seem a bit more tolerant.)That's an interesting idea, how OT view time and how God interacts to it. I'm curious how do you deal with "predestination" passages of scripture?

  2. Jin-roh says:

    >D2M, I'm sorry I didn't respond to this in a more timely manner. Regarding the "predestination" passages, I think they need to be dealt with on a case by case basis. However, in general I'm concerned about taking one example (say, the hardening of Pharoh's heart) and extrapolating from that example to all cases and at all times.

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