What is open theism?

Open theism is a theological position concerning the nature of God and the future.  The term is growing in its use because the theological position is growing in popularity.  If you have heard the term and don’t know what it means, here is an excellent summary by Greg Boyd.


6 thoughts on “What is open theism?

  1. What’s new about that? He started out by saying God is omniscient, he knows what we are going to do, right or wrong.

    1. The difference is not in God’s omniscience. It is in the nature of the future. Classical theism holds that God knows the future perfectly – as in God knows as fact what has not happened yet. In open theism a new category is introduced which is “possibility”. So God knows what has happened perfectly. God also knows what God will do in the future perfectly, because God himself will do it. But as for what free creatures will choose to do in the future, that is not knowable as an actual fact. Until choices are made there are possibilities but not actualities. So open theists would say, as Boyd does, that God does not know what we are going to do actually, God only knows the possibilities as possibilities. This is quite a bit different than classical theism in both Calvinistic and Arminian forms, which he talks about. Both Calvinists and Armenians believe that God knows the future as actualities – as objective facts.

      1. Yes, good theologians of all stripes and traditions know they are doing their best to put words to something that is beyond words. It’s the ones who say “This is what God IS like” instead of “This is what I THINK (or even believe) God is like given God’s revelation in Scripture” that cause me to pause.

        I would say it this way: The open theist mouse said to the elephant, “You are much bigger than classical theist mice think you are!”

        At the end of the day, those who support open theism are not trying to limit God. They are actually just trying to make the best sense out of the whole witness of the Scriptures. The critique of classical theistic models is that they are attempts to put God into a modern/enlightenment philosophical box. Ultimately, open theism requires a bigger view of God because not only does God have to know the past completely, God has to know every possible contingency of the future fully as well. That’s a lot to know.

  2. Being raised Arminian, I’ve always believed that God is not bound by time. God existed before time (it was Him that created time) and God will still exist after time. It is this created world of His that is bound by time. For me, the crux of open theism is that they are trying to bind God within time.

    1. What about the specific arguments of Open Theists lead you to that conclusion? If you watch even this simple explanation from Greg Boyd, he says nothing of the sort. God exists outside of time, which is the only way God could possibly know all the of the future possibilities (which are endless). I think Boyd is right when he says that open theism isn’t really about God, it’s about the nature of the future. Specifically, do we, as human agents actually posses the ability to make choices that matter, or is the future fixed in such a way that in the moment I can only do what God knows I will do, thus I don’t really have free choice at all – what I have is an illusion of choice. Open Theists never say that God is bound by time, that would be inconsistent with their position.

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