Question: Could you please deal with the Openness Theology debate that is going on right now? One of the main proponents is Gregory Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church, member of the Baptist General Conference and professor at Bethel College and Seminary.
Response: You will find his views clearly set forth in his book, God of the Possible: Does God Ever Change His Mind? (Baker Books, 2000). Boyd attempts to agree with the biblical teaching that God “perfectly knows” the future, while at the same time claiming that from God’s point of view there is “nothing definite [in the future] for God to know” (p. 16). Thus God didn’t know how evil Hitler would actually be or all the evil he would do because it wasn’t in concrete in the “future” for God to know. Of course, this would mean that God has to adjust His plans and actions as events develop. On the contrary, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts:15:18). Therefore, God must have known mankind’s every thought, word and deed from eternity past or He could not have known all He would do.
Boyd’s argument is that rather than the future being “exhaustively settled from all eternity,” it is at least “partly open.” Of course the future is “partly open” from man’s perspective, or man would not have any choice in anything. To deny this would be fatalism, which is both unbiblical and contrary to common sense and daily experience. Obviously, God is free to cause events as He sees fit according to His will—but He does not cause all events, or He would be the cause of evil. Yet such was Calvin’s claim.
The fact that God knows what Mr. Jones will do tomorrow does not cause Mr. Jones to do it. God’s infinite knowledge of all things, past, present and future, is neither inhibited by man’s freedom to act nor does it conflict with man’s freedom of choice.
Boyd’s problem is that, like Calvin and Luther and most Calvinists and Lutherans today, he imagines that “if God foreknows a future event, it must either be because He determined it or because it is an inevitable effect of past or present causes....We hold that God determines (and thus foreknows as settled) some, but not all, of the future....The open view is the only option that avoids ...the contradiction of asserting that self-determining free actions are settled an eternity before free agents make them so.” (pp. 23,91).
To assert, as Boyd does, that God could not know what man, by his own choice, might do in the future, is to deny God’s omniscience. That would place upon the infinite God a finite limitation which would be both unbiblical and illogical.
I have dealt with this question in the past (see TBC, Feb. and Apr. ’01) and do so more extensively in my forthcoming book, What Love Is This? - Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God.