Monday, May 30, 2005

The Dangerous Doctrine of Open Theism

Lately I have been discussing open theism with some friends with an emphasis on molinism (or middle knowledge). I came across a good slide presentation which goes through the basic tenants of openness and gives a good defense of the classical position. You can find the slide show here. Chris Poteet goes through all this pretty quick, but it is great for an overview. It takes a minute to load.

I thought this would be especially good because some of you visiters are molinists and there has been some good discussions going on in a few of the comment boxes.

Please continue to discuss and work through these different doctrines. We are called to "be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind[s]." (Romans 12:2) Let us be semper reformanda, always reforming.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Rand said...

Molinism is one of those doctrines that are held by those who do not keep their noses in the Word of God.

Psalm 147:5... 1 John 3:20... Psalm 139:4... Acts 15:18...

The teaching is clear and plain. Oh the wickedness of man to question such a key part of God's perfect character.

Daniel said...

Open theism is indeed a dangerous doctrine that is clearly unscriptural.

However, open theism should not be confused with molinism! Molinism is not open theism. These positions are quite different. In fact, one of the best refutations of open theism is found in William Craig's book The Only Wise God. Currently Craig is one of the best proponents of middle knowledge. Before criticizing this doctrine, one should be careful to see that he understands it correctly. Straw men burn far too easily.

While open theism denies God's prescience, Molinism affirms that God does indeed know the future exhaustively. Each of the verses that Rand pointed out make perfect sense in the Molinist's view of God's foreknowledge.

Middle knowledge is not necessarily an Arminian doctrine. It fits also in a Calvinist's view of soteriology. In fact, the doctrine of middle knowledge might help the Calvinist give a better explanation of free agency.

Rand said...

"It fits also in a Calvinist's view of soteriology. In fact, the doctrine of middle knowledge might help the Calvinist give a better explanation of free agency."

LOL...I think you'll have a rough time finding a Calvinist who will agree with that statement Daniel. Better leave defending the calvinist positions to the calvinists.

I have no need of open theism or so-called middle knowledge; the Bible is way too clear:

"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isaiah 46:10)

B-bye open theism and molinism!

Daniel said...


Do you know the difference between middle knowledge and open theism? These positions are very different! So far from what I'm hearing, I don't think you're familiar with Molinism. Open theism denies that God knows the future. Molinism holds that God does know the future. Before you criticize my position, make sure that you understand it.

Isaiah 46:10 doesn't even address the doctrine of middle knowledge. This verse simply says that God announces or declares to His prophets the future. In the context, Isaiah is referring to the fact that God has made known that Cyrus will end the exile by sending Judah back to Palestine. Thus, Judah should be confident that God will do as Isaiah has prophesied since that is God's plan and accomplishing His plan brings Him pleasure.

If you want to address some passages that actually deal with middle knowledge, read 1 Sam. 23:1-12 or Matt. 11:20-24. Explain to me how God knew what these people would do if placed within the different circumstances.

Jessica said...

Right on!

Rand said...


Daniel, first let me clarify, that when I said "b-bye to open theism and molinism", I didn't say they were the same thing, but I was saying that Isaiah 46:10 thrashes both heresies. I believe I can mirror your charge: "before you criticize my position, make that you understand it.

Now I have to say that your "interpretation of Isaiah 46:10 is the most liberal, eyes wide shut interpretation I've ever had the displeasure of reading. The Lord DECLARES the END from the BEGINNING. His counsel shall stand (the one he determined from the ancient times), He will do all His pleasure. This goes way beyond the specific prophecy about Cyrus.

I would deal with the passages you use as "proof" of middle knowledge, but considering the above, what would possibly be the point.

Until you come to understand and accept the doctrines of grace, poor Daniel, you will waste away in all sorts of carnal, nonsense doctrines.

I'm done here.

Daniel said...


Calling someone's position "liberal," "carnal," and "nonsense" does not refute it.

By saying that in Is. 46:10 Isaiah was especially referring to Cyrus, I did not mean that this is only prophecy that God has ever declared to His prophets. In the context, Isaiah is referring to that specific prophecy about Cyrus as being an indication of God's ability to foretell the future. Of course, there are many prophecies that indicate this. Isaiah is pointing this out to show how Yahweh is superior to any of the false gods of Babylon. These gods can't foretell the future. But the LORD can!

The passage simply doesn't talk about the issue of middle knowledge that we were discussing.

Warhdsonforehds said...

The ideas of future determinism (that certain events are settled in God's mind) and future openess (there are events not settled in God's mind) really play well with me. Both are ideas that I had arrived at with my own study and it's interesting to find that there are significant movements with those ideas.

The verses picked to defend the classic view have two common themes. They declare the wonderous power of God, including the ability to determine the outcome of future events. They also do not say that God opts to control the outcome of all future events. It's pretty important to note the difference.

On the issue of free will the arguement was made that "the definition of freedom is not the prinicple of alternate possibilities but that our choices are free from coercion". The problem is that definition of free will doesn't adhear to the classic view as I understand it. If a person's choices is completely dictated by their nature which is in turn completely dictacted by God either choosing to save them or not save them, than they are in no way free from coercion.

The whole garden of Eden thing doesn't make a lot of sense to me under the classic view either. If people's acts to sin is driven by their sin nature then how could Adam have been tempted without one? That seems to leave Adam with the some what arbitrary ability to choose to eat or not eat.

Frank Martens said...

A couple of verses... (all in ESV)...

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)

"and 'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.' They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. " (1 Peter 2:8)

So much for open theism.


aron said...

I'm not sure that God's saying "if you had done x, y would have happened," is a reason to believe that it was at some point part of the future that God knew. It's just wisdom; I don't have foreknowledge, but I know that if you smash your fingertip with a hammer, you will say 'Ouch.' (Or, you will at least feel pain.)

That's not middle foreknowledge, that's just a simple understanding of natural law; cause and effect.

I admit, however, that I don't know much about middle knowledge, and didn't have time to look up those verses. But I will. I will say at the outset though, that I don't think there's room scripturally for a view that says God knows all possible outcomes, but doesn't know *for sure* exactly what will come.

Daniel said...


You wrote, "I will say at the outset though, that I don't think there's room scripturally for a view that says God knows all possible outcomes, but doesn't know *for sure* exactly what will come."

Molinism teaches that God knows with certainty which outcome will occur. Not only that, but God has planned before creation which outcome will occur. I think that you're confusing middle knowledge with open theism here. I recommend reading William Craig's book The Only Wise God in order to get a better understanding of it. BTW, I'm also currently blogging about it on my blog.

You also wrote,"If you had done x, y would have happened." Middle knowledge is actually kinda the exact opposite of this phrase. It's more like "If y would have happened, you would had done x." This is more difficult sort of knowledge.

Warhdsonforehds said...

'A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.' They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. " (1 Peter 2:8)

So they were destined to stumble. That doesn't mean that it is applicable to all people at all times in all things.

Frank Martens said...

Perhaps, but it does mean that you can't say "God doesn't predestin people to do certain things", because clearly some were.


Warhdsonforehds said...

Maybe, but that doesn't really knock down the ideas of determinism and openness. Maybe to the extent that people would claim that God doesn't act at all in the world, but I don't think that idea is inherant at all to d/o.

Frank Martens said...

So then how do you explain chapter 9 of Romans and Acts 13:48?

Frank Martens said...

Another thing is this...

Based on what you are saying, then other things in the Bible don't apply to us either. And we could also say that when Christ said "If you Love me, you will keep my commandments" it only applied to the disciples.

I think not.

Daniel said...


These passages need to understood within their literary contexts. It's real to easy to quote prooftexts back and forth, but that doesn't get much accomplished in the long run.

Romans 9 needs to be understood in light of chapters 10 and 11. Here Paul's primary purpose to deal with objections to the gospel in light of the rejection of Israel.

Acts 13:48 needs to read in light of v.45-46. Paul and Barnabas had just been kicked out the Jewish synagogue and forced to preach the gospel to Gentiles. Thus, Paul quotes Is. 49:6 to the Jews to show that even the "Gentiles were appointed for eternal life." That was the shock of the statement.

Warhdsonforehds said...

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you." So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

Jonah 3:1-5

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Jonah 3:10

God said one thing and did another. The people repented and God had compassion on them. In such, the grace and mercy of God is demonstrated.

From that two possibilities arose. Either God said He was going to do something that He didn't have any intention of following through with or God was swayed by their prayers into changing His decision.

As far as Romans 9, I think I could be missing the point that you are trying to make with it. What I get from the chapter is that God stacks the deck to further His glory. I don't think that's ever been a point of contention though. A bad, but workable, analogy would be the Yankee's having a $200 million payroll. You have a pretty good idea that they are going to have a successful season but you don't know how they're going to get there (I understand the problems with this statement, don't blow this out of proportion).

Acts 13:48 is a little more problematic. There are a few possible answers. The verse could be referencing a specific instance as opposed to a general statement. In light of verses like John 3:16 this seems like a possibility.

I've heard the idea that we are all "elect" but there has to be a concious decision to accept the election. I think that's a pretty lousy idea, but I'll mention it for completeness.

I just helped someone move into my house and lost my train of thought. I'll pick it up as things reoccur to me.

One of the most contentious things about the Bible is there is difficulty knowing what to take literally and what is figurative. What things are applicable in all times and what things are specific to certain groups in certain circumstances. Things are things I enjoy exploring a great deal. I think Julianne will back me up when I claim that I approach ideas contrary to my own with a spirit of wanting to learn and adapt what I believe to what I find to be true (not that there are multiple truths, but you know what I mean). I don't have problems admiting when there are gaps in ideas that I have.

chris said...

Thanks for linking to my presentation. I'm glad you found it useful.

Frank Martens said...


I think if you had a strong conviction about something you wouldn't need to search anymore about that subject.

Example: We have a strong conviction that Christ died and rose again for our sins, we know this, no question about it. Same would be true about what you believe on election, we can sit here and tossel ideas around, but when it comes down to it. Do you really believe it, have you searched scripture on it, and have you prayed about it?

My response to daniel, my point still stands. By stating that you need to take Romans 9 in light of Romans 10 & 11, you make it sound like it's not applicable to how God operates today, or how it even applies to us! I'm still confused on how your point answers my question.


Frank Martens said...

Sorry, what I mean Daniel, is I'm confused on how your response negates my point. :)