Is Open Theism biblical?


Open Theism is idolatry. It is false doctrine. It is heresy. The doctrine of Open Theism (Openness, Open View) includes the dangerous doctrine that God is not all-knowing (omniscient). He is merely a "guessing god," the god of "the possible but not definite," a god that does his best with the information he has at the time. Clark H. Pinnock in describing man's libertarian freedom and his god says:

Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential - yet to be realized but not yet actual. God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom... The God of the Bible displays an openness to the future (i.e. ignorance of the future) that the traditional view of omniscience simply cannot accommodate.

So, at its foundation, open theism (OT) states that since mankind has free will God does not and cannot know the future fully. God must guess at the action(s) he thinks man will take and act accordingly. Therefore, the OT god is ever-changing - one involuntarily reacting to the contingent choices of his creation. However, this is not the God of creation. This is not the God of redemptive history. This is not the God of the Bible. Scripture says:

Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.
 I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel (Isaiah 46:8-13).

These rebels of open theism present an extremely dangerous doctrine. Since we cannot cover all of their errors in this brief space, let us just look briefly at how this doctrine affects some of God's other attributes.

What are God's attributes? He is:

Just (Justice)

One of God's attributes above is that God is omniscient. God is all-knowing, which, as we know, OT denies! But Scripture states, "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit" (Psa. 147:5). It is important to understand this doctrine. A. W. Pink states:

God not only knows whatsoever has happened in the past in
every part of His vast domains, and He is not only thoroughly
 acquainted with everything that is now transpiring throughout the 
entire universe, but he is also perfectly cognizant of every event,
from the least to the greatest, that will ever happen in the ages to 
God's knowledge of the future is as complete as is His 
knowledge of the past and the present; and that because the
future depends entirely upon Himself.
 Were it in any way possible for something to occur apart from
 either the direct agency or permission of God, then that
 something would be independent of Him and He would at once
 cease to be Supreme.

God is omniscient. But what if we deny this foundational truth? What is at stake? Though OT will argue otherwise, if one denies God's omniscience, then they necessarily must limit his other attributes as well. If God does not know the choices of his creation before hand, then he is subject to millions of possibilities at every given moment. He becomes at best a guessing god. For instance, how could God be all-powerful and display his power - that is, the proper power at the proper time - for every situation if he were not omniscient? How could he destroy the world in Noah's time if he did not know the thoughts and the intents of the hearts? (Gen. 6:5). After all, according to OT, someone may have been a drop or two of water away from total repentance and God would have not known. Thus, OT ascribes possible sin unto God! The picture of the god they paint has the possibility of lacking perfect patience, love, justice, mercy, truth, goodness, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, the proper use of divine wrath, etc. Their god must necessarily make a "best guess" at what man may do and then react with his attribute(s), when to display said attribute(s), and what measure of said attribute(s) to use. Best Guesser = God?

Moreover, the Jesus of OT is also far different than the Jesus of the Bible. If God did not know that wicked humanity would fall in Adam (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23; 5:12-19), why would he provide Jesus as the sacrificial lamb before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)? Look at what Luke said:

Acts 2:22-24 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Acts 4:27-28 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

But according to OT, God could not foreknow these things. Moreover, since their god is not foreknowing, they must necessarily disagree with Paul who says, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30; cf. Eph. 1:4, 11, etc.). They also must inevitably disagree with Peter who says:

1 Peter 1:18-21 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Speaking of Peter, what of his denial of Christ before the crucifixion? (Mark 14:66-68; John 18:15-18; Matt. 26:71-75). How did Jesus know where Peter would be that night? He could have run away with other disciples. How did Jesus know that someone would confront Peter? How did he know that Peter would actually deny him - more than once? How did he know it would be three times and not seventy times seven? How did he know the time would be before the rooster crowed? Is our Savior merely a Mighty Guesser or the Mighty God??

OT also must essentially disagree with Jesus, who said, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day" (John 6:39; 18:9). But since man allegedly has a free will, how could God the Father and Jesus know this? OT worships a different Jesus than the Jesus of Scripture, one that is even capable of making mistakes.

God sovereignly ruled the events of his son Jesus upon the Cross. The death of Christ did not take God by surprise (Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28). He even told his prophets of his son's death in advance (Psa. 22; Isa. 53; cf. Deut. 18:22). He planned it in eternity (1 Pet. 1:18-22). If sinners had done what they wanted to do, they would have killed Christ earlier - but it was not yet his appointed time (Matt. 26:18; John 17:6; Gal. 4:4). The Son of God had to die upon the Cross of Calvary according to God's eternal plan and purpose (Isa. 53; Eph. 1:4, 11).

However, while a fallen world watched, the Jews, Gentiles, Pilate and the Roman soldiers did exactly what their wicked hearts desired to do (Acts 13:28-29) - they lied about Jesus because they wanted to lie about him; they stripped him because they wanted to strip him; they beat him because they wanted to beat him; they mocked him because they desired to mock him; they spit in his face because they desired to spit in his face; they crucified him because they wanted to crucify him; they watched him die because they wanted to watch him die. BUT God was in control the whole time. Scripture shows us that God was sovereignly ruling the actions of evil men; they did exactly what he had ordained from the foundation of the world (Luke 22:22; Acts 2:22-24; 4:27-28; 13:28-29). Jesus could have called on more than twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53), but instead he willingly gave his innocent life (John 10:11, 17-18). God the Father and God the Son sovereignly determined (Luke 18:31) that Christ would die (1 Pet. 1:18-21), for whom he would die (Mark 10:45; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 1:4, 11), when he would die (Gal. 4:4), and his manner of death (Psa. 22; Isa. 53). This cannot be the ever-guessing god of OT, a god controlled by the contingent choices of his creation!!!

The God of creation and redemption is much different than the god of OT. God works out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:11; cf. Lam. 3:37-38; Rom. 2:28; 11:33-36). God cannot fail at anything he seeks to do (Psa. 33:11; 115:3; 135:6; Prov. 21:30; Isa. 14:27; 43:13; 46:10, 55:11, Dan. 4:35; Rev. 3:7). God is just, he is holy, he is loving. Far from being a God who is "at risk" of making a mistake because of his limited knowledge, he sovereign and thus, necessarily, omniscient.


(Pinnock, Clark H. "From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology" in Grace of God and the Will of Man. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1995.

Pink, A.W. The Attributes of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 1975.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).