A contingency in Christianity—namely, open theists— are currently communicating that God does not have perfect knowledge of the future. How do we respond to this crisis within Christianity?
First, from beginning to end, the Bible teaches the omniscience of God. In the words of Isaiah, God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). As such, God’s knowledge is exhaustive, including even those things in the future (cf. Job 37:16; Psalm 139:1–6; 147:5; Hebrews 4:12–13).
Furthermore, if God’s knowledge of the future is fallible, biblical predictions that depend on human agency might well have turned out wrong. Then even Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse could have failed, thus undermining His claim to deity. God Himself could have failed the biblical test for a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22). Indeed, if God’s knowledge of the future is incomplete, we would be foolish to trust Him to answer our prayers, thus negating the “confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).
Finally, open theists suggest that God cannot know the future exhaustively because He changes His plans as a result of what people do. In reality, however, it is not God who changes, but people who change in relationship to God. By way of analogy, if you walk into a headwind, you struggle against the wind; if you make a U–turn on the road, the wind is at your back. It is not the wind that has changed, but you have changed in relationship to the wind. As such, God’s plan to destroy Nineveh was not aborted because He did not know the future. Instead, God did not destroy the Ninevites because they, who had walked in opposition to God, turned from walking in their wicked ways. Indeed, all of God’s promises to bless or to judge must be understood in light of the condition that God withholds blessing when we disobey and withholds judgment when we repent (Ezekiel 18; Jeremiah 18:7–10).
Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, “My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure.”
Isaiah 46:9–10 NKJV
For further study, see “Does God repent?” (p. 57), and Millard J. Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003).
***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming in Fall 2023. When available for pre-order we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***
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