Open Theism is a subject I haven't thought much about. One of my facebook friends asked for suggestions to blog about. I threw out a suggestion that he didn't want to write about because he hadn't thought much about it. For me, though, blogs are sometimes an opportunity to think out loud, so I decided to blog about something I hadn't thought much about just to show that it can be done. I'm thinking about open theism right now, and I'm going to share my thoughts with you.
First, lemme tell you what I take open theism to be, and mind ye this is just hearsay. Open theism is the view that God does not know everything that is going to happen in the future. More specifically, he doesn't know what free creatures are going to decide in every case.
The first criticism that ordinary theists (closed theists?) might make is that God is all-knowing. That's standard Christian doctrine. And an ordinary theist might accuse an open theism of denying God's omniscience.
The response of an open theist, from what I understand, is that God is all-knowing. To be all-knowing means to know all true propositions. But God can't be faulted for not knowing something when there's nothing to know. God doesn't know what colour my girlfriend's hair is for the simple reason that I don't have a girlfriend. But that doesn't mean he isn't all knowing. There's no answer to the question, "What colour is my girlfriend's hair"? There's no true proposition for God to know. In the same way, say the open theists, there's no true answer to the question, "What is Bob gonna do with that apple?" if Bob has free will and is just as likely to eat it as he is to throw it away.
It's an interesting thing to think about. Open theism depends on the notion of libertarian free will. In compatibilist free will, our choices are determined by our natures, including our desires, biases, motives, beliefs, etc. But in libertarian free will, our choices are not determined by any antecedent causes or conditions, including our mental predispositions. Since nothing determines what a person will do under libertarianism, anything is possible (within physical limits, of course). Somehow, Open theists seem to think this removes all truth value from future tensed propositions when it comes to describing the future actions of free creatures.
One way they might get there is to say that if there is some definite truth about what you are going to choose in the future, then you can't choose otherwise since, if you did, then the original "truth" would not have really been true after all. So if there is some definite truth about your future choices, then you cannot have libertarian free will. But since you do have libertarian free will, then there's no definite truth about what you're going to choose in the future. That's a logically valid argument, but I dispute both premises. I don't believe we have libertarian free will. I'm a compatibilist. But I don't think there being definite truths about our future choices amounts to our choices being determined, so I don't think future tensed truths are inconsistent with us having libertarian free will. I won't go into that because I wrote about it here.
Also, I gave some philosophical arguments for compatibilism in various other blogs, which I linked to here. I argued in there that compatibilism makes better sense out of morality than libertarianism does. So if we have moral obligations, then compatibilism is more likely to be true than libertarianism.
But lots of Biblical arguments have been made for compatibilism, too. One of the best I've read was Martin Luther's book on The Bondage of the Will.
But even without appealing to compatibilism over and against libertarianism, a person could argue against open theism by pointing to the many prophecies in the Bible that seem to depend on human decision for their fulfillment. Clearly, God knew what people were going to do. Otherwise, he would not have been able to make those certain predictions. The Bible clearly portrays God as knowing the future actions of his creatures.
I suppose an open theist could respond by saying that since God doesn't exhaustively predict all future acts of all his creatures, these Biblical prophecies do not negate open theism. They could argue that in the case of prophecy, God overrides libertarian free will, but he only does so in isolated circumstances in order to bring his prophecies to fulfillment. It isn't his usual course of action. I don't really have an answer for that. I'd have to look up passages to see exactly what it says about God's future knowledge.
Open Theism also seems to depend on a dynamic theory of time. If time is static, and God exists outside of time and is able to observe the entire spectrum of time as if it were all "now" from his point of view, then it seems obvious that he would know everything that every free creature would ever choose. Only if God is in time, like the rest of us, would any problem arise, it seems to me, because then God would either have to predict the future or wait to see what happens. So if it turns out that the static view of time is correct, that would probably be a good argument against open theism. I happen to subscribe to the dynamic theory of time, though, so I wouldn't go that route.