God Does Not Know The Future

I have been hesitant to post this one because some people take this issue as one of salvation, of which they would decide that I am out of.  I share my views here because I find this stance to be extremely liberating and profoundly life-transforming.

I believe that God does not know the future.

In theological circles, this is a belief called Open Theism. The idea is that those events that have not happened yet have not happened even to the eyes of God. God might know everything; however, he cannot know that which has not happened and cannot be known. He knows the infinite possibilities and their likelihoods, but God is going along in time with us. This view stems from the verses in the Bible where God changed his mind (Jonah 3:9-10, Exodus 32:14).  It is not an attack on God's sovereignty; it is just an admission that the future has not yet happened.

For some, this view gets hung up by the prophecies of Scripture. How can a God that does not see the future know events in the future? An open theist explains this problem by saying that anything God prophesied is more like a promise.  This actually emphasizes his sovereignty more by saying that if God wants to have an event occur, he has all of the power to make it happen.  Prophecies are not fulfilled because he has seen it happen but because he knows that he is going to make it happen. Open theism emphasizes the omnipotence of God while limiting the traditional view of omniscience, although he would still be all-knowing.

The opposite view to open theism is called closed theism. It depends on a philosophical construct that God exists outside of time and space. Please note that this is not a biblical construct; it is completely extrabiblical yet people make it an essential issue. The idea is that God exists in a place where our time can be viewed like a time-line that can be hung on a bulletin board in a classroom.  The past and future is all laid out and completed in God's eyes. He can peer in at any point on the finished time-line and see any point of time at any time. It is all finished for him. This view emphasizes that God knows the future. They claim this is revealed through the prophecies about the future which then came true, but we have already pointed out how open theists deal with that argument.

Closed Theism runs into serious problems when dealing with the Scriptures where God changed his mind. Many will argue that God did not really change his mind. This interpretation is a disservice to the Scriptures. A well-thought out explanation would argue that those explanations of God are just a form of anthropomorphism, describing God in human terms so that he can be understood. At that point, open and closed theists would just be arguing about what they believe is most logical rather than what the Bible says because they both know God is described in Scripture in a way that highlights that he does not know the future.

While an open theists wrestles with how prophecy works in a system where God does not know the future. A closed theist has to wrestle with something much more dangerous: How to define clear teachings of Scripture away from what they clearly say.

Many reside in some area between closed theism and open theism. They would argue that God sometimes knows the future and sometimes does not.  In this view, there would be varying degrees of foreknowledge. Those who reside in that gray area between closed and open theism would argue about how much of the future God knows, when God knows the future, and even argue that knowing whether God knows the future is something that we just do not know.

As for me, it seems more honest in dealing with the Scriptures to state that God does not know the future and is going through time with us. What really matters is that we all get our beliefs from Scripture and not from church traditions, the sentiments of the world around us, or from just not wanting to think about it too much.

You may also be interested in Does God Change His Mind and Change Brings Change but There is an Idea that Keeps Us Chained.