Questions for open theists, responses, and answers.

The following is a reprint of my original paper (in black text), with an open theists response (in brown text), and my answer to his response (in green text):

  1. Do you believe that God learns?
    1. According to Open theism, God does not know the future free will choices of people, though He knows all possible choices they could make. Therefore, when people finally make those choices, God then learns what those choices are. Therefore, the God of open theism learns; that is, he learns what becomes the choices of his created beings.

    2. If God is learning, then isn't He growing in understanding and gaining in knowledge?

      1. Open Theist's Response: No, I do not believe that God learns in anything like the human sense.  I believe that God knows all facts immediately, as His omniscience dictates.  Humans, on the other hand, do not have immediate access to all facts and must acquire them through the process of learning.  Learning has the implication of being a temporal act of replacing lack of knowledge with knowledge, with knowledge.  As an open theist, I do not believe that God does anything of the sort.  God knows all facts immediately, and therefore there is no temporal process of learning what God previously did not know.  God knows all facts, always.  The whole point is that some things are not facts yet.  To say that God learns perpetuates the stereotype that there is some future that is unknown to God which God must find out, while open theists, at least the ones I am familiar with, deny that there is any future currently existing to be known.  Your language is loaded."

      2. CARM's Answer: To say that God does not learn in the human sense it is not helpful. The open theist admits that God learns by saying, "I do not believe that God learns in anything like the human sense." In this, he is saying that God learns -- just not in the human sense. The open theists goes on to imply that since there are some things that are not yet facts, that when these events become fact, it does not mean that God is learning. This open theists has not refuted the original point. Let me reiterate: if God does not know what the future free will choices of individuals will be, when these choices are made, God then learns what those choices are. I cannot see how anyone could deny the fact that the God of open theism learns.

  2. Do you believe that God can make mistakes?  For example, can God believe one thing will happen and it does not?
    1. If God learns what people will do only after they have done it, then is it possible for God to expect someone to do one thing and yet he doesn't do it? Is it possible?
      1. If yes, then you propose a god who makes mistakes and learns from his mistakes.  Can such a god be trusted?  Is such a god biblical?
      2. If no, are you saying he guesses the future properly every time?  If so, then he is knowing the future free will choices of all people.
    2. If God can make mistakes, then how do you know that the atonement isn't a mistake?  How do you know that His making you isn't a mistake? 
      1. Open Theist's Response: "Any act of "expecting" on God's part cannot be seen in too human a sense here.  We needn't say that God literally expects humans to make certain free choices.  We can instead focus solely on what God in fact knows: the present probabilities of a future free action.  Based on those, God can "expect" in some sense and be "mistaken" in some sense.  But this should not amount to God ever having held a false belief.  God can look at the probabilities and choose to act based on the most probably event, and that event may turn out wrong, but I do not see this amounting to God being wrong.  Look at it like a game of chance.  In Monopoly, for instance, I may see my opponent coming up to a stretch of property that I own.  Given his current space on the board, the possible numbers he could roll, and the number of properties that I own in that range, I can determine the probability that he will land on one of my properties that turn.  Based on those probabilities, I can choose to either build hotels or not build hotels.  Say the odds are in my favor, so I built hotels.  Is my building the hotels somehow a claim that I know my opponent is going to land on one of my properties.  No, I would never see it as such.  I would see it as a risk that I am justified in taking based on the probabilities, but not a claim to knowledge.  If I end up losing because of it, then it was not that I was wrong about the way I played.  It's simply that indeterminate events defied the probabilities, probabilities that I knew could be defied all along.  So there was no false belief on my part.  Likewise, God's "mistakes," if you want to use such a term, involve no false beliefs."

      2. CARM's Answer: The issue is not what we "needn't say." The issue is whether or not God, in the open theism perspective, can expect one thing to happen and be incorrect about his expectation. Obviously, since according to open theism God God does not know the free will choices of individuals, God must make mistakes. As the point above is stated, if he does not make any mistakes in this, then he knows what the future is in every sense. This open theist has not addressed the issue. He has raised a false analogy and not specifically addressed the logic of the question.

  3. The Bible says that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24).  If this is so, then how did God know which sins to place on Christ since we hadn't committed them yet when Jesus was crucified?
    1. If you say that God put all possible sins that could be committed on Jesus, then how would God know which sins would actually be committed?  If He put all potential sin on Jesus, then there might be sins placed on Christ that were never committed by anyone.
    2. If you say that God put every kind of sin on Christ, then Jesus didn't bear our sins in His body, did He? ...since your position would mean that individual sins were not born by Christ.
    3. If you say that God does not need to know every sin we will commit, on what basis do you say he does not have to know?  Just saying He doesn't proves nothing.  If you answer that it is because the future is unknowable, then you beg the question; that is, you assume the thing to be true which you are trying to prove, and that is not proof.
    4. VERSES:   1 Pet. 2:24 says, "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."   2 Cor. 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
      1. Open Theist's Response: "I really don't know what to make of this question.  It betrays either a fundamental lack of knowledge of open theism, or (and I hope I'm wrong) an intent to mislead others about the fundamentals of open theism.  Creation and atonement are not mistakes because these are events that God has chosen to perform based on a value He places in them by virtue of the events themselves, not by virtue of what we choose to do with them.  Creation is not a mistake because it something God willed, and atonement likewise.  God's will is never a mistake.  God cannot mistakenly find value in some action, because God is the determiner of all value."

      2. CARM's Answer: The open theists today, given the benefit of the doubt, does not seem to properly understand the question. Of course, there is no intent to mislead anyone. As far as understanding open theism goes, I understand it... which is why I have asked a question. Nevertheless, this open theist does not answer the question. Instead, he attempts to cast doubt upon my understanding of open theism. What he needs to do is address the issue. If, as he says, I am not properly understanding open theism, that he needs to clarify exactly where that error of understanding is -- in relation to the question asked. Notice, that I did not say or imply that the creation or the atonement are mistakes. I simply asked by what means that the God of open theism would know which sins to place on Christ since they had not been committed? I then gave three anticipated possible responses with answers and more questions. He did not address these. Therefore, I conclude that this open theist has not adequately answered the questions asked.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.