Open Theology Part 2: Scripture and God’s Knowledge of the Future

A cursory examination of Scripture seems to lend credence to Open Theology. For the purposes of this post one such passage, Jeremiah 19:4-6, will be examined:

4 Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; 6 therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter (NASB, emphasis added).

In this often cited passage, proponents of Open Theology claim that God exhibits surprise concerning the actions of the Israelites. While God certainly recognized that, in their free will, the Israelites might do something contrary to His desires, it never entered His mind that they may do something as evil and wicked as sacrificing innocent lives to other Gods. As a result, God responds to their behavior by changing the name of Topeth to the valley of Slaughter. It must be conceded that when taken by itself, a reading of the above passage does seem to suggest that God can be taken by surprise when His creation takes advantage of their freewill. Furthermore, it seems to suggest that God is reactive rather than proactive in response to our actions. However, I believe Open Theology fails to place passages such as Jeremiah 19:4-6 within proper context.

The overall scheme of Scripture presents a God who is omniscient and immutable. Furthermore the prevalence given to prophecy throughout the Bible suggests that God has a precise and accurate knowledge of future events. Passages such as Jeremiah 19:4-6 seem to contradict this big picture. This problem of interpretation is caused by the fact that the Bible is both human and divine at the same time. Scholars Fee and Stuart suggest, “it is this dual nature of the Bible that demands of us the task of interpretation” (Fee & Stuart, 2003, p. 21). The Bible is the divine message of God written to us in human language. As such, it often becomes necessary for God to reveal Himself in human terms. As such, passages such as Jeremiah 19:4-6 are traditionally understood as anthropomorphic. In other words, Biblical writers are attributing human qualities to God so that readers may understand His message. An understanding of anthropomorphism is essential to satisfy the tension between passages such as Jeremiah 19:4-6 and John 13:19 where Christ tells His disciples that He is revealing the future to them so that they may have confidence that He is God. In fact, if the student of the Bible ignores anthropomorphism to satisfy a belief in Open Theology, he will inevitably be forced to compromise a multitude of passages that stand in stark contrast. For instance, the moment God declares in the Garden of Eden that Christ will crush Satan under His heel (Genesis 3:15) believers are invited to have confidence in His plan for our future. To consider that God is basing His plan on anything other than a concrete knowledge of future events is unthinkably frightening.

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