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  • Writer's pictureKirk Bagby

Must Clarence Eat the Omelet?: A Response to Open Theism

1 Introduction

Open theism is a theological system whose most distinct doctrine is the denial of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge in favor of libertarian human freedom. Against open theism, John Oswalt, professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS), says, “The Bible teaches both God’s foreknowledge and [human] free-will.” Therefore, we must affirm both.[1] Thomas McCall, professor of theology at ATS, once said that he does not know of any reputable Christian theologian who is an open theist and that few people in church history believed in something like open theism except for those who were deemed unorthodox.[2] By contrast Michael Peterson, professor of philosophy at ATS, seems to affirm open theism, for he teaches open theism as being the best philosophical and theological position in his classes PH501 and PH600.[3] Although Peterson sometimes sounds uncertain whether God’s foreknowledge is or is not exhaustive, at other times he implies that he affirms the open theist’s doctrine that God does not know future human decisions.[4] Due to the law of noncontradiction, God either knows future human decisions exhaustively or He does not. But how do we know which is true?


1.1 Literary Background

1.1.1 William Hasker’s Omelet Argument

A key argument used to support open theism is William Hasker’s philosophical argument involving Clarence eating a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.[5] Hasker argues that if it is certain that Clarence will freely choose to eat an omelet tomorrow, then God cannot foreknow this freely chosen decision. Thus, Hasker argues that libertarian human freedom is incompatible with God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. Hasker seeks to refute opposing views such as Jonathan Edwards’s position which entails theological determinism.[6] He seeks to demonstrate flaws in the middle knowledge view and the simple foreknowledge view.[7] And he declares that “the distinction between hard and soft facts cannot solve the problem of theological fatalism.”[8] He acknowledges that the doctrine of divine timelessness offers a plausible explanation for compatibilism.[9] Nevertheless, he seeks to point out flaws with the doctrine of divine timelessness.[10]


1.1.2 Affirmation of Hasker’s Omelet Argument

Hasker’s omelet argument is used to support open theism in other publications. The Openness of God presented the first comprehensive description of open theism to the public.[11] This book was coauthored by Hasker who presents his omelet argument in support of open theism.[12] The philosophy textbook Reason and Religious Belief, which Hasker coauthored, also quotes the omelet argument to promote open theism.[13] Of note, this textbook is coauthored by Peterson who uses this textbook to promote open theism in his class PH501.[14]


1.1.3 Opposition to Hasker’s Omelet Argument

By contrast, both Bruce Reichenbach and Jonathan Kvanvig counter Hasker’s omelet argument using philosophy. Reichenbach admits that Hasker’s argument is formidable, but he is not convinced of its conclusion.[15] Reichenbach questions Hasker’s critique of the distinction between hard and soft facts.[16] Also, he points out an equivocation in Hasker’s argument which yields an ambiguity between “bringing about” the past and “altering” the past. Depending on how one interprets this ambiguity, Hasker’s argument could be considered true or false.[17] Similarly, Jonathan Kvanvig is not persuaded by Hasker’s argument. Kvanvig asserts that Hasker “believes and is committed to the position that theological fatalism is logically independent of logical fatalism,” but he argues that “[Hasker’s] account fails to maintain the logical independence of theological and logical fatalism.”[18] Like Reichenbach, Kvanvig also spots an inadequacy in Hasker’s treatment of the distinction between hard and soft facts.[19]


1.1.4 Opposition to Open Theism in General

After the publication of The Openness of God, the Reformed theological community vehemently opposed open theism with a plethora of publications.[20] Open theist Clark Pinnock notes that most criticism against open theism comes from “Calvinist conservative evangelicals.”[21] This reality is not surprising because open theism is the exact opposite of Reformed theology regarding both God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. Reformed theology denies libertarian freedom; thus, Reformed sources rely, to a greater or lesser extent, upon a compatibilist view of human freedom.[22] Even so, some of these Reformed sources do acknowledge that Arminianism, which affirms libertarian human freedom, also opposes open theism by affirming God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.[23]


These Reformed sources do provide significant biblical and historical evidence in support for God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. Steven C. Roy offers the most comprehensive work opposing open theism using biblical exegesis. For his doctoral dissertation, Roy studied all the passages in the Bible which support exhaustive divine foreknowledge,[24] and he responds to objections and explanations from open theists regarding many of these passages. Roy also studied the passages of the Bible which open theists use to support their position, and he provides rebuttals with explanations of these passages.[25] Regarding historical evidence, Millard Erickson provides evidence that the church has predominantly affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge from its inception to the 20th century.[26] Furthermore, Russell Fuller offers historic Jewish interpretations of the Old Testament to demonstrate that sources outside the Christian church also affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge based upon Scripture rather than Greek influences.[27]


1.2 Literary Review and Thesis Statement

I observe that most publications against open theism are Reformed sources which deny libertarian freedom. Thus, these sources have no need to directly address Hasker’s omelet argument.[28] Only a few sources affirm libertarian freedom and seek to directly address Hasker’s omelet argument. While these sources do provide some notable philosophical objections to Hasker’s argument, more philosophical objections can be raised against Hasker’s argument. Furthermore, one should not counter philosophy with philosophy alone as Reichenbach and Kvanvig do. Rather one can and should use biblical and historical evidence to oppose Hasker’s omelet argument. While Roy, Erickson, and Fuller use biblical and historical evidence to oppose open theism in general, they do not use this evidence to oppose Hasker’s omelet argument specifically. Nevertheless, biblical and historical evidence can be used to specifically oppose Hasker’s omelet argument.


I propose that philosophical, biblical, and historical evidence reveal that Hasker’s omelet argument does not adequately demonstrate that exhaustive divine foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom are incompatible. Consequently, one need not deny God’s exhaustive foreknowledge to affirm libertarian human freedom.


1.3 Definitions and Disclaimers

In this paper, “exhaustive divine foreknowledge” is defined as God’s ability to know future human decisions. “Libertarian human freedom” is defined as the ability to choose to do otherwise (i.e., the ability to choose to do “A” or “not-A”).[29] Also, libertarian freedom will be assumed to be true as opposed to non-libertarian views of human freedom (e.g., a “compatibilist” view of human freedom or “soft-determinism”).[30] The term “compatibilism” will be used to refer to the compatibility of “exhaustive divine foreknowledge” and “libertarian human freedom,” unless noted otherwise.[31] Lastly, space does not permit me to discuss practical implications of this theological debate.[32] While practical implications are important to all theological discussions, I agree with Erickson that practical implications of theology are secondary because the primary issue in theology is whether a theological position is true or not, based upon biblical evidence. One should not consider a theological doctrine to be true simply because it is practical or beneficial. If a theological position is true, then it will be practical and beneficial.[33]


In this paper, I will first quote Hasker’s omelet argument. Then, I will provide philosophical objections to Hasker’s argument, revealing philosophical gaps in his argument. Lastly, I will briefly provide biblical and historical evidence which contradict the conclusion of Hasker’s argument.


2 Hasker’s Omelet Argument

Hasker provides three arguments—“A,” “B,” and “C”—to support incompatibilism.[34] Each argument includes more details strengthening his position. Even though the “B” argument is quoted by Hasker himself in The Openness of God,[35] and it is quoted in the textbook Reason and Religions Belief,[36] I will quote the “C” argument because it includes the most detail.

(C1) It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)

(C2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe any true proposition such that his knowing that proposition at that time is logically possible. (Premise: divine omniscience)

(C3) God has always believed that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow. (Assumption for indirect proof)

(C4) If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in anyone’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Premise: the unalterably of the past)

(C5) Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast. (From 3,4)

(C6) It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one. (From 2)

(C7) Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 5,6) So Clarence’s eating the omelet tomorrow is not an act of free choice.

(C8) Clarence will act freely when he eats the omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)

(C9) Therefore, it is not the case that God has always believed that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 3-8, indirect proof)[37]


Hasker claims that his argument demonstrates that “it is logically impossible that God should have foreknowledge of a genuinely free action.”[38] Consequently, Hasker believes that if one affirms libertarian freedom, one must deny God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.


3. Philosophical Objections to the Omelet Argument

Hasker boasts, “There is a minor cottage industry among philosophers of religion seeking to device an escape from this argument. I cannot go into all of this here; I will simply record my conviction (shared by the other authors of this book) that none of the evasions are successful.”[39] Despite Hasker’s boasts, I propose that philosophical flaws can be found in Hasker’s omelet argument. Hasker’s argument is invalid because it is incomplete, and it rests upon a premise which cannot be proven true. Furthermore, philosophy alone can never unequivocally acquire theological truths.


3.1 What Causes Clarence to Eat the Omelet?

Hasker’s argument is incomplete because it fails to provide an adequate explanation as to what causes Clarence to eat the omelet. Hasker rejects the explanation that God’s foreknowledge causes Clarence’s omelet-eating action, but he never offers an answer to the question, “What causes Clarence to eat the omelet?” Indeed, he intentionally avoids answering this question, claiming that this question is irrelevant.


Hasker says that the most common rebuttal of his argument is, “God’s knowledge of what Clarence will do does not cause Clarence to eat the omelet.”[40] Hasker responds, “This may be true, but it is irrelevant to the argument as presented, which does not make any claim to the effect that God’s beliefs are the cause of human actions.”[41] I agree with Hasker; his argument certainly does not include any mention of God’s knowledge causing human actions. But if God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of Clarence’s omelet-eating action, then what is?


Hasker admits, “But what, if anything, causes Clarence to eat the omelet is left as a problem for further study.”[42] By saying “what, if anything,” Hasker implies that there may not be a cause for Clarence’s omelet-eating action. But is it reasonable to believe that an action performed by a contingent being may be completely causeless? What would become of our understanding of metaphysical reality if contingent events might be entirely uncaused?


I argue that Clarence is a contingent being.[43] Actions performed by contingent beings must have a cause. Therefore, Clarence’s action of eating the omelet must have a cause. Indeed, Hasker implies that he agrees.[44] First, Hasker criticizes the claim that nothing else can explain what causes Clarence’s action except God’s foreknowledge. Then, he declares that even though there is no obvious cause for Clarence’s action, other than God’s foreknowledge, this does not mean that there is no other cause.[45] Thus, Hasker strongly implies that he believes that there is a cause for Clarence’s action.


But what could be the cause of Clarence’s omelet-eating action? One possible explanation is free will. I agree with open theists that events which are caused by human will can be otherwise undetermined due to libertarian freedom. One’s self-determining will can be the cause of an action. Thus, Clarence’s omelet-eating action may be caused by his self-determining will. However, this explanation is clearly unacceptable to Hasker, for it would defeat premise (C7) and defeat the purpose of his omelet argument. But if Clarence’s self-determining will and God’s foreknowledge are both ruled out, then what causes Clarence to eat the omelet? Hasker never offers a clear explanation as to what causes Clarence to eat the omelet in either his 1985 journal article or his 1989 book.[46]


Worse yet, Hasker declares, “If I am further pressed to say what specifically would be the cause of human actions if God foreknew them, I reply that the question is inappropriate and I am under no obligation to answer it.”[47] Hasker clearly admits that he is intentionally ignoring a significant gap in his argument—the reality that something must cause Clarence’s action. Why does Hasker believe that the question of what causes divinely foreknown human actions is “inappropriate and I am under no obligation to answer it”? He continues, “My view as a libertarian incompatibilist is that God does not foreknow human actions in detail, and I am surely under no obligation to speculate about how things would be in a universe so greatly different from the way I conceive the actual universe to be.”[48] In other words, Hasker uses the conclusion of his omelet argument—that “libertarian incompatibilism” is true—to support his practice of ignoring the question “What causes Clarence to eat the omelet?”


I propose that Hasker’s omelet argument cannot be considered complete unless it contains a premise explaining what causes Clarence to eat the omelet because a causeless contingent effect cannot exist. However, Hasker intentionally omits such a premise due to his belief that the conclusion of his argument is true. Hasker seems to imply, “Because the conclusion of my argument is true, my argument does not need a premise explaining why the conclusion is true. I do not need to explain what causes Clarence to eat the omelet because my argument is true.” This is circular reasoning. One can never use the conclusion of his argument to support his argument or use the conclusion of his argument as an alibi for building an incomplete argument. Without an adequate explanation regarding what causes Clarence to eat the omelet, Hasker’s omelet argument remains incomplete.


3.2 What Evidence Supports Premise (C1)?

Second, Hasker’s omelet argument is invalid because it rests upon an unprovable premise. If any premise of an argument can be questioned, then the conclusion must also be questioned. Indeed, Hasker himself uses this same tactic against a hypothetical counterargument from a compatibilist. After giving the counterargument, Hasker declares that the “premises certainly are not known to be true. (This, I submit, places them in strong contrast to the premises of the incompatibilist arguments, which enjoy powerful intuitive support.)”[49] First, Hasker acknowledges that if a premise of an argument can be questioned, then the conclusion of that argument can also be questioned. Afterwards, Hasker declares that the premises of his argument(s) “enjoy powerful intuitive support.”[50] By contrast, I argue that the first premise of Hasker’s omelet argument does not “enjoy powerful intuitive support.”


Premise (C1) declares, “It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.”[51] But how does Hasker know that Clarence will eat an omelet tomorrow? Why does Hasker believe that this proposition is true? What evidence suggests that this premise is correct? Premise (C1) is an assumption which can never be conclusively proven to be true, yet the whole of Hasker’s argument rests upon the assertion that this premise is undoubtedly true.


Those who affirm libertarian freedom can agree that when tomorrow morning arrives, Clarence may decide not to eat the omelet.[52] Also, many events could prevent Clarence from eating an omelet tomorrow. Clarence may awaken to find that he is out of eggs or that his stove is not working. A natural disaster may prevent Clarence from eating breakfast tomorrow, or Clarence may not wakeup in the morning at all. Consequently, it is presumptuous for anyone to declare with certainty that Clarence will eat an omelet tomorrow.


Jesus’s parable in Luke 12:16-21 warns us not to presume the future. A rich man presumed, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry’ ” (Lk 12:18–19).[53] This man often declared with certainty, “I will.” But God knew the truth: “You won’t” (Cf. Lk 12:20). Although this is a fictional parable directed against a haughty and greedy man, I argue that this biblical principal against presumption applies to Hasker’s omelet argument; no one can presume the future with certainty.


Open theists may object, “Yes, premise (C1) is an assumption which can never be unequivocally proven true, but just assume that it is true for the sake of argument. If (C1) is true, then you must admit that the conclusion is also true.” First, Hasker’s argument does not indicate “If Clarence eats an omelet tomorrow…” Rather, it declares with certainty, “Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow.”[54] Indeed, the weight of the conclusion depends upon the weight of this premise. Second, I am not logically obligated by any evidence given by Hasker to believe that (C1) is true.


Prior to presenting his omelet argument, Hasker provides additional information to coax his readers into believing that (C1) is true. Hasker calls Clarence “an aficionado of cheese omelets.”[55] Elsewhere, Hasker declares that Clarence is “known to be addicted to cheese omelets.”[56] By providing these extra details about Clarence, Hasker influences his readers to accept the veracity of his first premise prima facie.[57] However, since this is merely a hypothetical example, one could just as well assert “Clarence is allergic to eggs” or “Clarence is a vegan.” Such propositions are not unreasonable.


Even if Clarence has a strong affinity for cheese omelets, I propose that Clarence may not eat a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. I support this proposition with two pieces of evidence: (1) Clarence has libertarian freedom and (2) the Bible admonishes us not to presume the future. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that Clarence may not eat an omelet tomorrow. Therefore, (C1) can be reasonably questioned and the conclusion of the omelet argument can also be reasonably questioned.


3.3 Philosophy is Limited in Acquiring Theological Truths.

Besides these two holes in Hasker’s argument, philosophy alone is not able to conclusively acquire theological truths. Hasker’s argument is a purely philosophical argument lacking biblical and historical evidence for support. However, human reasoning alone cannot conclusively prove theological truths because all humans are finite and fallible. Due to the noetic effects of sin, human reasoning can be faulty, especially regarding theological truths.


The only possible way to conclusively prove the nature of God’s foreknowledge is to receive a clear and direct answer about this issue from God Himself. It is doubtful that God will someday bestow upon all people a supernatural revelation which will unequivocally answer the question, “Is God’s foreknowledge exhaustive or not?” Nevertheless, God has revealed information about Himself in His Word. Therefore, one must search the Bible for answers to this theological issue.


4. Biblical and Historical Objections to Open Theism

According to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Scripture is the primary source for answers to all theological questions because Scripture is the only authoritative source for theological truths. Next, tradition (i.e., church history) is the second-best source for theological truths. This is because we are not the first people in the past two millennia who have asked the question, “What does the Bible say about God’s foreknowledge?” We ought to consider how believers have interpreted the Bible throughout history to better understand theology. Next, reason (i.e., philosophy) is the third source for theological truths.[58] Both biblical and historical evidence should carry more weight than purely philosophical evidence regarding theological issues.[59] Both biblical and historical evidence indicate that God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive, contrary to Hasker’s omelet argument.


4.1 Biblical Evidence Against Open Theism

4.1.1 Biblical Evidence for God’s Exhaustive Foreknowledge

Traditional theists[60] support their position using predictive prophecies such as the prophecy of Josiah, Cyrus, the birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus, Peter’s denial of Jesus, and Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. Also, traditional theists use New Testament passages speaking of God’s foreknowledge of the fall and His knowledge of those who will be saved to support exhaustive divine foreknowledge.[61]


Over three hundred years before Josiah was born, his name was prophesied along with his action “to desecrate the altar by burning the bones of pagan priests on it.”[62] Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would deliver the Israelites from captivity (cf. Is 44:28-45:1).[63] And Micah 5:2 predicts that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Now, God could have easily fulfilled this prophecy by conceiving His Son in a woman living in Bethlehem; however, God chose to conceive his Son in Mary who lived ninety miles away in Nazareth.[64] Why would Mary travel ninety miles to Bethlehem while pregnant? The census which Caesar Augustus enacted required Mary to travel to Bethlehem because she was betrothed to Joseph, and Joseph was from the lineage of David (Luke 2:1-5). The fact that God chose to incarnate His Son in a woman living in Nazareth despite the Micah 5:2 prediction indicates that God knew the decision of Caesar Augustus to enact this census which led to Mary and Joseph’s decision to travel the long and treacherous ninety miles to Bethlehem.[65]


All four gospels mention that Jesus knew and taught His disciples about His own future execution.[66] Furthermore, Acts 2:23 declares that God foreknew Jesus’s death, which was the result of numerous sinful human decisions.[67] Jesus predicted that all His disciples would abandon Him (cf. Mt 26:31; Mk 14:27), and Jesus very specifically predicted that Peter would deny Him three times. Both the prediction and the fulfillment of Peter’s denial are mentioned in all four gospels.[68] Jesus was confident that Peter would deny Him three times even though Peter was confident that he would not (cf. Mt 26:33-35; Mk 14:27-30). Furthermore, Luke’s gospel indicates that Jesus was also confident that Peter would repent (cf. Lk 22:32).[69] Regarding Judas’s betrayal, Roy notes, “Each of the Synoptics records Jesus’ prediction that Judas would betray him (Mt 27:20-25; Mk 14:18-21; Lk 22:21-23).”[70] These prophecies involving numerous human choices provide strong evidence that God knows future human decisions contrary to Hasker’s argument.[71]


4.1.2 Rebuttals against the Open Theist View of Biblical Prophecies

To explain these biblical prophecies, open theists claim that God can accurately forecast future human decisions due to His exhaustive knowledge of the past and present.[72] However, this is an arbitrary explanation which does not adequately account for predictive prophecies involving numerous human decisions, particularly many years into the future such as the prophecies about Josiah and Cyrus. Open theists also claim that some of these prophesies could be interpreted as conditional prophecies.[73] But redefining some of the above prophecies as being conditional (e.g., the death of Jesus and Peter’s denial of Jesus) is also arbitrary and unwarranted. Open theists have claimed that God might restrict or override human freedom to fulfill predictive prophecy.[74] Indeed, open theist Gregory Boyd suggests that God may have orchestrated “certain highly pressured circumstances” to get Peter to deny Jesus.[75] Roy points out that this would require God to “overrule human freedom on many, many occasions.”[76] Consequently, Boyd’s suggestion undermines libertarian freedom which is a core doctrine of open theism. Furthermore, Boyd’s suggestion undermines the goodness and the loving nature of God which is also a core doctrine of open theism.[77] If God is loving, why would He intentionally orchestrate events to provoke one of Jesus’s disciples to sin by denying Jesus three times?


In part, open theists support their position using passages in the Bible which speak of God repenting or changing His mind.[78] In response, traditional theists interpret these passages anthropomorphically.[79] In response, open theists contend that these anthropomorphic interpretations are invalid or unwarranted.[80] However, open theists agree that metaphors or analogies are necessary when talking about what God is like.[81] Language about God is analogical rather than univocal. Consequently, all language about God is metaphorical to some extent. Open theists do not explain why some passages describing God’s actions should be interpreted anthropomorphically while other passages should be interpreted more literally, and open theists also do not explain how to tell the difference. Thus, their hermeneutic seems incomplete and inconsistent. After examining the “open theist hermeneutic,” Erickson writes, “On the basis of this examination, it appears that the open theist hermeneutic is less adequate, overall, than that of traditional theism.”[82]


4.2 Historical Evidence Against Open Theism

If the Bible supports exhaustive divine foreknowledge better than open theism, then historical evidence should affirm this conclusion. Indeed, historical evidence supports God’s exhaustive foreknowledge so much that open theists do not deny this reality. After providing a few historic sources similar to open theism Boyd admits, “Still, I must concede that the open view has been relatively rare in church history.”[83]


Erickson provides evidence that the church has predominantly affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge from its inception to the 20th century.[84] He could not find a time before which the church denied God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.[85] Also, he demonstrates that many historic examples of those who confidently denied God’s exhaustive foreknowledge were either (1) people outside the church, (2) people within the church who also affirmed many other unorthodox doctrines, (3) or people within the church who were not well-known or influential.[86]


Moreover, many early church leaders who affirmed God’s foreknowledge also affirmed libertarian freedom. For example, Justin Martyr,[87] Irenaeus,[88] and Tertullian[89] all affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian freedom. Some may object saying that it is not clear that all these early church leaders affirmed libertarian freedom; rather, they may have affirmed a “compatibilist” definition of human freedom like the later views of Augustine. By contrast, Ken Wilson affirms that “no extant Christian author prior to Augustine taught anything other than genuine free choice…”[90] Wilson further writes, “Of the eighty-four pre-Augustinian authors studied from 95-430 CE, over fifty addressed this topic. All these early Christian authors championed traditional free choice…”[91] Indeed, open theist John Sanders agrees that Justin Martyr and Irenaeus “affirmed libertarian human freedom.”[92]


Furthermore, John of Damascus, who lived hundreds of years after Augustine, clearly affirmed libertarian freedom and God’s foreknowledge of human decisions.[93] These and other early church leaders saw no conflict between human freedom and God’s comprehensive foreknowledge.[94] Referring to the early church’s view on God’s foreknowledge, Thomas Oden writes, “If God knows what I later will do, does that take away my freedom? Although it may at first seem so, the consensus of classical Christian teaching is to answer no. Human freedom remains freedom [sic], significantly self-determining, even if divinely foreknown.”[95] Thus, church history affirms God’s exhaustive foreknowledge contrary to Hasker’s argument. (For more information, see my article "The Early Church Against Open Theism.")


In response, open theists claim that the reason why Christians throughout history have affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is due to negative influences from Greek philosophy.[96] However, open theists offer no evidence to support this claim except to point out some similarities between Greek thought and early Christian doctrines such as the doctrines of divine immutability and impassibility.[97] Without sufficient warrant for this claim, open theists are guilty of committing the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc which means “after this; therefore because of this.” This fallacy claims that if “A” came before “B,” then “A” must have caused or influenced “B.” Open theists imply that because the Greeks believed in exhaustive divine foreknowledge before the early church existed, then the early church must have derived their doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge from the Greeks.


By contrast, Roy affirms, “Similarity of ideas does not always necessarily indicate a causal influence.”[98] Furthermore, there were some Greek philosophers who held views similar to open theism such as Cicero and Aristotle.[99] Indeed, open theist John Sanders acknowledges that Cicero held a view similar to open theism.[100] Sanders affirms that the church was not influenced by Cicero’s view, but he provides no evidence to explain why “Cicero’s views would not become widely influential.”[101] Why was the church influenced by those Greek philosophers who affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge rather than those who denied God’s exhaustive foreknowledge?


I propose that the early church was influenced primarily by the Bible when they affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. Historic Jewish sources support this proposition. Although Sanders claims that Jewish sources were also influenced by Greek ideas,[102] Russell Fuller counters Sanders’ claims by providing much historical evidence to demonstrate that historic Rabbinical sources were not influenced by Greek thought in their affirmation of God’s foreknowledge. Rather, these Rabbinical sources derived their doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge from the Old Testament.[103]


Lastly, Roy argues that Hellenistic thought does not “necessarily distort the church’s understanding of the Scriptures.”[104] Just because Greek, Christian, and Jewish sources affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge does not imply that those Christian and Jewish sources were mistakenly influenced by the Greeks.


5. Conclusion

Given the philosophical flaws in Hasker’s omelet argument along with the biblical and historical evidence affirming God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, I conclude that Hasker’s omelet argument does not offer adequate reason to reject God’s exhaustive foreknowledge on account of libertarian human freedom. Consequently, one can affirm compatibility between exhaustive divine foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom.


Open theists may respond to my conclusion saying, “If compatibility is true, then how does God know future libertarian decisions?” All Christians agree that there are theological mysteries which cannot be adequately understood. For example, how did God create the universe ex nihilo, and how is Jesus fully God and fully man? We will never fully answer these “how” questions. Thus, we must be content to describe that God created the universe ex nihilo and that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Likewise, we can never fully understand how God knows future libertarian decisions, particularly because we are finite and fallible. The best that we can do is describe that God knows future libertarian decisions. Compatibilists, such as those who affirm the “simple foreknowledge” view and/or the “middle-knowledge” view of God’s foreknowledge, do not seek to precisely explain how God knows future libertarian decisions. Rather, they seek to describe that God knows future libertarian decisions.


If Christians doubted every doctrine which lacks adequate how explanations, many doctrines of Christianity would be questioned (e.g., creation ex nihilo and the incarnation). We must be content that these doctrines are true based upon biblical evidence confirmed by church history. Much biblical and historical evidence indicates that God knows future human decisions. Thus, Christians should be content to believe that God knows future human decisions rather than focusing on how.[105]



Footnotes

[1] This came from a conversation I had with Dr. John Oswalt regarding open theism on April 23, 2022, at Kentucky Mountain Bible College in Jackson, KY. [2] This information comes from my September 21, 2021, class notes for TH501 “Basic Christian Doctrine” taught by Dr. Thomas McCall at ATS in Wilmore, KY. [3] I took PH501 “Philosophy of Christian Religion” in the spring of 2022 and PH600 “Suffering, Tragedy, and Christian Faith” in the fall of 2022 from Dr. Michael Peterson at ATS. [4] During one class period, Peterson said, “I am not with no-divine-foreknowledge,” meaning that he is not opposed to the idea that God has foreknowledge, but a few minutes later, he said that he tends to lean towards there being credibility in the open theists’ view regarding God’s omniscience. Furthermore, Peterson teaches that relationships require risk, and exhaustive foreknowledge removes this element of risk in God’s relationship with human beings. This information comes from my class notes for PH600. (For more information, see my article "Do Relationships Require Risk?: A Response to Open Theism.") [5] Cf. William Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” Faith Philos. 2.2 (1985): 122–30, https://doi.org/10.5840/faithphil19852212; William Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 67–74. [6] Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” 126. [7] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 29–52, 59–63. [8] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 95. Note: In general, a hard fact is a proposition which no one has the power to change, and a soft fact is a proposition which may be changed (i.e., due to free will). Nuances in the definitions of hard and soft facts along with examples of hard and soft facts are debatable. See pp. 75-95 for Hasker’s view on hard versus soft facts. [9] Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” 130. [10] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 158–85. [11] See Richard Rice’s comments on this book in Richard Rice, The Future of Open Theism: From Antecedents to Opportunities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 1. [12] Clark Pinnock et al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 148. [13] Michael Peterson et al., Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Fifth Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 168. [14] Again, I took this class from Peterson in the spring of 2022 at ATS. [15] Bruce Reichenbach, “Hasker on Omniscience,” Faith Philos. 4.1 (1987): 86, https://doi.org/10.5840/faithphil1987413. [16] Reichenbach, “Hasker on Omniscience,” 86–87. [17] Reichenbach, “Hasker on Omniscience,” 88–90. [18] Jonathan Kvanvig, “Hasker on Fatalism,” Philos. Stud. Int. J. Philos. Anal. Tradit. 65.1/2 (1992): 92. [19] Kvanvig, “Hasker on Fatalism,” 96ff. [20] For a list of dozens of sources which critique open theism, many of which were published by Reformed writers after 1994, see Piper, Taylor, and Helseth, Beyond the Bounds, 385–92. See also Steven C. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Biblical Study (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006). [21] Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness, The Didsbury Lectures 2000 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), xi. See also John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, Second Edition. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 292. [22] Cf. Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 196. [23] Bruce A. Ware, “Defining Evangelicalism’s Boundaries Theologically: Is Open Theism Evangelical?,” J. Evang. Theol. Soc. 45.2 (2002): 194; Millard Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 14; Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 17; Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free, Third Edition. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2010). Even though Geisler often calls open theism “extreme Arminianism” (cf. Geisler, Chosen But Free, 108-128, 168-175), he affirms that it is distinct from traditional or “moderate” Arminianism. [24] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 1, 34. [25] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 125–93. [26] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 87–109. [27] Piper, Taylor, and Helseth, Beyond the Bounds, 24–41. [28] Only those who affirm libertarian freedom (e.g., Arminians) are responsible for addressing Hasker’s omelet argument since this argument uses libertarian freedom to deny God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. [29] For a more detailed definition, see Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 66. [30] Hasker also assumes that libertarian freedom is true in his book God, Time, and Knowledge, viii. [31] Cf. Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” 122. [32] For practical implications from open theists, see Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 89–112; Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, 157–78. For responses against open theism, see Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 189–212; Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 229–78. Furthermore, McCall wrote these practical objections against open theism in a handout for TH501 “Basic Christian Doctrine”: “…concerns regarding the goodness of God (if God doesn’t know the future, then how does He know that He is making the right decisions?) (Also, if God doesn’t know for certain the future, then how can we trust Him with His promises.)” [33] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 189. [34] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 66–74. These same three arguments can be found in Hasker’s 1985 journal article, “Foreknowledge and Necessity.” Note: “Incompatibilism” refers to the incompatibility of God’s foreknowledge and libertarian freedom. [35] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 148. [36] Peterson et al., Reason and Religious Belief, 168. [37] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 73–74. [38] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 148. Emphasis added. [39] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 148–49. Hasker was surely more reserved and modest in 1989 when he wrote, “Although I argue in these pages for a definite position, I do not consider that any one position, including my own, comes anywhere close to being obviously definitive and correct.” Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, viii. [40] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 149. Hasker also mentions this potential objection in Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 71-72. [41] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 149. See also, Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 72. [42] Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” 125; Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 72. [43] By contrast, God alone is a necessary being. [44] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 142–43. [45] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 142. [46] Furthermore, this 1989 book, God, Time, and Knowledge, was reprinted and slightly revised in 1998. Yet, Hasker never offers an explanation as to what causes Clarence to eat the omelet. [47] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 143. Emphasis added. [48] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 143. Emphasis in original. [49] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 142. By “incompatibilist arguments,” Hasker is referring to his series of arguments: “A,” “B,” and “C.” [50] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 142. [51] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 73. [52] Note: Hasker and I both affirm libertarian freedom. [53] All Scripture references in this paper are from the New King James Version, 1982. [54] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 73. Emphasis added. [55] Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 67. [56] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 147–48. [57] Whether Hasker does this intentionally or unintentionally, I cannot say. Personally, I believe that it is inappropriate for Hasker to assert that Clarence is “an aficionado of cheese omelets” or that Clarence is “known to be addicted to cheese omelets” immediately before presenting his omelet argument. If this information about Clarence is important or pertinent, Hasker should have included it in the premises of his omelet argument. [58] For more information on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, see Chris Bounds, “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” The Wesleyan Church, 24 January 2022, https://www.wesleyan.org/the-wesleyan-quadrilateral. [59] By contrast, Hasker seems to imply that his purely philosophical argument should carry more weight than Scripture and tradition (i.e., church history). [60] In this context, a “tradition theist” is a theist who affirms God’s exhaustive foreknowledge regardless of what view of human freedom he or she affirms. [61] Cf. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 114–23. [62] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 37. See 1 Kings 13:2 for the prophecy and 2 Kings 21:26 (Josiah becomes king) and 2 Kings 23:15-16 (Josiah desecrates the altar) for the fulfillment. [63] Cf. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 44–53. [64] “A Long, Cold Road to Bethlehem : Nativity: Gospel Accounts of Mary and Joseph’s Journey Gloss over the Arduous Reality of Life and Travel in Ancient Galilee, Scholars Say.,” Los Angeles Times, 23 December 1995, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1995-12-23-me-17102-story.html. [65] For more information on this and other Messianic prophecies, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 55–61. [66] Cf. Mk 8:31; Mt 16:21; Lk 9:22 and Mk 9:31; Mt 17:22-23; Lk 9:44 and Mk 10:33-34; Mt 20:17-19; Lk 18:31-33. See also John 2:19-22. For more details, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 92-96. [67] Cf. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 74–79. See also Acts 4:27-28. [68] Prediction: Mt 26:33-35; Mk 14:29-31; Lk 22:31-34; and Jn 13:36-38. Fulfilled: Mt 26:69-74; Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:54-62; and Jn 18:17-27. [69] For more information on Peter’s denial of Jesus, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 96-101. [70] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 103. For more information, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 101-111. [71] For these and other examples, along with answers to rebuttals from open theists, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 27–123. See also, Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 39–57. [72] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 51; Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, 49–50; Sanders, The God Who Risks, 133; Richard Rice, God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1985), 77; Boyd, God of the Possible, 37. [73] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 51–53; Rice, God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will, 81. [74] Boyd, God of the Possible, 34; Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 121. [75] Boyd, God of the Possible, 35. [76] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 100. [77] Cf. Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 15. [78] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 26–35. [79] Cf. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 125–94. See also, Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 38. [80] Cf. Rice, God’s Foreknowledge & Man’s Free Will, 80; Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 94. [81] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 17. [82] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 85. For more information against the hermeneutics of open theism, see Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 17–38, 61–85, 243–48. [83] Boyd, God of the Possible, 115. [84] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 87–109. [85] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 131. [86] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 111–31. [87] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin 43-44 (ANF 1:117). [88] Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.32.2 (ANF 1:506), 4.37 (ANF 1: 518–521), 4.39 (ANF 1:522–523), and 5.36.1 (ANF 1:566). [89] Tertullian, Against Marcion 2.5 (ANF 3:300-301) and 2.7 (ANF 3:303). [90] Ken Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism (United States of America: Regula Fidei Press, 2019), 18. [91] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 19–20. See also the chart on pp. 120-121. [92] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 74. [93] John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 2.25-30 (NPNF 2.9:39-44). [94] Cf. Origen, Origen against Celsus 2.20 (ANF 4:440). [95] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1992), 50. Emphasis added. [96] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 59ff; Boyd, God of the Possible, 115, 130–32. [97] Cf. Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 59–100. [98] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 202. Erickson seems to concur. Cf. Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 250. [99] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 200–201, 207. [100] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 68. [101] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 68. [102] Pinnock et al., The Openness of God, 68–72. [103] Piper, Taylor, and Helseth, Beyond the Bounds, 23–41. [104] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 204.

[105] This paper was written as the final project for the class TH780 "Research Methods for Theological Studies" which I took at Asbury Theological Seminary in the fall of 2022.



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