Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Andy Heer’s “Does God Know the Future?”

The Spring 2010 edition of The Arminian Magazine has a short article by Andy Heer entitled "Does God Know the Future" challenging the notions of open theism that seems to make some inroads among a few of our Arminiam and non-predestinarian brethren. It is a profitable read and provides a well thought out synopsis against open theology. Following is an extract from that article and the rest of it can be found here.

… There is no question that Open Theology is not the position of historic Wesleyan Arminianism. Thomas Noble concluded that Pinnock's view is different from ours. "The immanence of God within the time-space creation is emphasized at the expense of his transcendence. God is not fully transcendent over time since he cannot know the future."

Classical Arminian theology has historically affirmed God's exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. While Open Theology is an attempt to reject Calvinistic determinism, both Open Theology and Calvinism have tied predestination and foreknowledge together. It seems for Open Theology to reject predestination one must also reject foreknowledge as well.

John Wesley, in his sermon "On Predestination," argued that the foreknowledge of God is the first point to be addressed in considering God's whole work in salvation. Wesley said that, "God foreknew those in every nation who would believe," and that, "In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation."

For Wesley this did not create a conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge. He affirmed that though God knew the future, he did not determine it. Wesley believed that we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are. Wesley said, "I now know the sun shines. Yet the sun does not shine because I know it: but I know it because he shines. My knowledge supposes the sun to shine, but does not in any wise cause it. In like manner God knows that man sins; for he knows all things. Yet we do not sin because he knows it: but he knows it because we sin. And his knowledge supposes our sin, but does not in any wise cause it."

Calvinism conflates foreknowledge with predestination, claiming that God foreknows the future because He has predetermined it. Wesley, like Arminius, saw God's divine foreknowledge as the ground of his predetermination to save those who believe and damn those who do not believe. Open Theology is a denial, not a development of historic Arminian theology. For that matter Open Theology is a denial of the historic position of the church. Open Theology seems to want to remove the mystery or the paradox of human freedom and divine foreknowledge, but in this attempt to limit God's knowledge they have created bigger problems and a smaller God. …

Open Theology, while I believe in error, should not be used as a wedge to deny fellowship to those who subscribe to it's tenets. Arminius stated something in one of his lectures I continue to view as profound and a wise choice for us to follow.

… first, it is very difficult to discover truth and avoid error; second, people who err are more

likely to be ignorant than malicious; third, those who err may be among the elect; and

fourth, it is possible that we ourselves are in error. (The Works of James Arminius, D.D., (American edition of 1956; Works), I, 183. Cited by Bangs, Op. cit.,276)