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  • Writer's pictureKirk Bagby

Response to Dr. Michael Peterson on Open Theism

OUTLINE

 

1.     Introduction

1.1.  Definitions

1.2.  Thesis


2.     Do Relationships Require Risk?

2.1.  God with God

2.2.  Human with Human

2.3.  Human to God

2.4.  God to Human


3.     Greek Influence?

3.1.  The Problem for Open Theists

3.2.  The Proposed Solution: Greek Influence

3.3.  No Evidence Supporting the Accusation

3.4.  Greek Influence among Open Theists


4.     Conclusion



1. Introduction

Dr. Michael Peterson is a professor of philosophy at Asbury Theological Seminary, the author or co-author of numerous books, and the founder and an editor “of the prestigious scholarly journal Faith and Philosophy.”[1] Although he does not call himself an open theist, Peterson leans heavily towards open theism in his theology. In his class PH 600 “Suffering, Tragedy and Christian Faith,” Peterson taught two propositions supporting open theism. He taught that relationships require risk, and he taught that the reason why church leaders throughout history have predominantly affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is because the church has been unduly influenced by pagan Greek philosophy.


1.1 Definitions

Open theism is a system of theology which denies God’s exhaustive foreknowledge in favor of libertarian free will.[2] Libertarian freedom can be concisely defined as “the ability to choose to do otherwise.”[3] The term “exhaustive divine foreknowledge” refers to God’s ability to know all future human decisions. Open theists affirm that God does not know and cannot know future human decisions. Open theists do affirm that God is omniscient; however, they define omniscience as knowing everything that can be logically known, and they believe that future human decisions cannot logically be known.[4]


In contrast to open theism, classical theism affirms that God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive.[5] God knows all future human decisions. In general, classical theists are divided between Reformed theists (e.g., Calvinists) who deny libertarian free-will and Arminians who affirm libertarian free-will.[6]


1.2 Thesis

Dr. Michael Peterson teaches open theism as being the best philosophical and theological position in his classes PH 501 “Philosophy of Christian Religion” and PH 600 “Suffering, Tragedy, and Christian Faith.”[7] Sometimes Peterson sounds uncertain whether God’s foreknowledge is or is not exhaustive, but at other times he seems to affirm the idea that God does not know future human decisions. During one class period, Peterson mentioned that he is “not-with-no-divine-foreknowledge,” meaning that he is not opposed to the idea that God has no foreknowledge, but a few minutes later, he said that he tends to lean towards there being credibility in the open view regarding God’s omniscience.[8] To support his position, Peterson made these two propositions: (1) relationships require risk, and (2) the church has been negatively influenced by Greek philosophy in its affirmation of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.


In this paper, I intend to respond to these two claims. I will deny Peterson’s claim that relationships require risk and explain why relationships do not necessarily require risk. Then, I will explain why the accusation that the church has been negatively influenced by pagan Greek philosophers in its affirmation of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is unwarranted.


 

2. Do Relationships Require Risk?

Peterson emphatically taught in PH 600 that relationships require risk. He specifically mentioned that he agrees with his friend and fellow philosopher William Hasker that risk is necessary in relationships.[9] He approvingly recommended the book The God Who Risks written by open theist John Sanders.[10] And he warned his students that if one affirms God’s foreknowledge, then one may be willing to give up the idea that relationships imply risk. Also, Peterson taught that if God knows future human decisions, then He can “rig the system” to get what he wants.[11] 


This notion that relationships require risk is suggested by other open theists. For example, Dale Tuggy declares that open theist “[Dallas] Willard believes, quite plausibly, that for God to have genuine personal relationships with us, he can’t know in advance everything we’ll ever do.”[12]

The “Risk in Relationships Argument” declares:

(1)  Risk is required in relationships.

(2)  But if God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge, then His relationship with humanity is not risky.

(3)  Therefore, for God to have genuine, personal relationships with humanity, God cannot possess exhaustive foreknowledge.


On the contrary, I propose that relationships do not require risk. Relationships can be significant and meaningful without the element of risk. Consequently, God can know future human decisions and still participate in genuine personal relationships with humans. To demonstrate this, I will expound upon four different relationships: God with God, human with human, human to God, and God to human.


2.1 God with God

When Peterson taught that relationships require risk in PH 600, I raised my hand and asked Peterson, “If relationships require risk, then is there any risk in the relationships among the persons of the Trinity?” With laughter in his voice, Peterson immediately exclaimed, “I wish you hadn’t asked that question because I don’t have a clear answer!” Peterson then acknowledged that my question is a good point because it messes with the logic of “relationships require risk.”[13] I proposed to Peterson, “The persons of the Trinity have adequately enjoyed relationships with each other from eternity free from risk. Therefore, God can adequately enjoy relationships with His creation (e.g., humanity) free from risk.” 


God and God alone is a necessary being.[14] This means that God alone is uncreated and has existed from all eternity. He has always existed of Himself, and He cannot cease to exist.[15]


God is also triune. He exists as one divine essence or substance in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[16] From all eternity, the three persons of the Trinity have existed in a perfect, loving relationship with each other. John Webster links the doctrines of aseity, trinity, and relationality saying, “Aseity is life: God’s life from and therefore in himself. . . . The self-existence of the triune God is his existence in the opera Dei personalia ad intra, the personal, internal activities of God. These activities are personal relations, that is, modes of subsistence in which each particular person of the Trinity is identified in terms of relations to the other two persons.”[17]


Being of the same divine essence, the three persons of the Trinity know each other perfectly well. Peter van Mastricht affirms that there is both mutual love and mutual knowledge within the Trinity by saying that “the persons [of the Trinity] most perfectly know and love each other, rest in each other, and reciprocate their own perfection to each other, which these passages support: Proverbs 8:30; Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 17:21–22.”[18] With mutual love and knowledge, there is no element of risk involved in the inter-trinitarian relationships. From all eternity, the three persons of the trinity have enjoyed perfect relationships with each other completely free from risk. Consequently, risk-free relationality is an eternally necessary reality.


2.2 Human with Human

By contrast, risky relationships are not necessary but rather contingent. This is because risky relationships involve one or more contingent beings. All beings, except for God, are contingent beings because they are created by God and depend upon God for their existence. Contingent, inter-human relationships always involve risk due to several related factors.


First, because humans are finite, humans are not omniscient. Humans do not possess exhaustive foreknowledge of other humans’ decisions. Indeed, humans cannot know with certainty any possible future decision from another human being.


Second, God created humans with libertarian freedom allowing humans to choose to do good or evil.[19] Consequently, humans can be unfaithful in their relationships with each other. Due to free will, humans can lie to each other and betray each other’s trust.


Third, the doctrine of original sin affirms that due to the fall, all humans are born corrupted by sin. Thus, all humans are prone to sin such as lying, cheating, and betrayal (cf. Ps 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Is 53:3; Rom 3:12, 23).[20] Thus, risk is inevitable in human-with-human relationships due to sin.


In summary, humans lack foreknowledge, humans possess libertarian freedom, and human nature is corrupted by sin. Consequently, all inter-human relationships involve risk. In other words, human relationality is always risky. But human relationality is contingent rather than necessary like divine relationality. Thus, risky relationships are contingent rather than necessary. In other words, risk is a contingent attribute of relationships rather than a necessary attribute.


2.3 Human to God

We have seen that relationships between the persons of the Trinity are necessarily risk-free, and relationships between humans are always risky. But what about relationships between humans and God? A philosopher may contend that a certain measure of risk is involved in human relationships with God. Because humans are finite, humans cannot know with absolute certainly that the Bible describes God’s character and promises truthfully and accurately. Due to human finitude, as well as the consequences of sin, such as the noetic effects of sin, humans may perceive their own relationship with God as being risky. Faith is always required in every human relationship with God to trust that God is faithful and true. Consequently, human relationships with God could potentially be viewed as involving a certain measure of risk.


Nevertheless, this measure of risk is not qualitatively the same as the risk involved in inter-human relationships. Due to the witness of God’s Spirit, humans can be confident in the veracity of God’s Word and the promises therein.[21] God’s Spirit can assure us that we are saved and are living in a right relationship with God (cf. Rom 8:15). Furthermore, God’s Word informs us that God is not capricious or fickle. He will never betray us or abandon us. Rather, God is always faithful, reliable, and trustworthy (cf. Ex 34:6-7; Lam 3:22-23; Ps 36:5; Rom 3:1-4; 2 Thess 3:3; Heb 13:8; 2 Tim 2:11-13; Rev 3:14; 19:11; 21:5; 22:6).


This faith is more than a mere intellectual assent that God exists (cf. James 2:19) or a bare understanding of the truths of the Bible. This faith is certain confidence and trust that God is wholly reliable, trustworthy, and faithful to His promises given in His Word.[22]


Humans must exercise faith to trust that God’s promises of salvation are real. This includes both present salvation from sin and future salvation entailing a future resurrection and life everlasting. But this faith is grounded in God’s faithfulness, and this faith is confirmed by God’s own Spirit bearing witness with our spirits. Thus, the “risk” involved in human relationships with God is qualitatively different from the risk involved in inter-human relationships. Indeed, I propose that faith in God can completely eliminate and mitigate all perceived risks in one’s relationship with God. A risky relationship involves fear and doubt, but God is not the author of fear and doubt (cf. 2 Tim 1:7; Rom 8:15; 1 John 4:18).


If any professing Christian thinks that his relationship with God is risky, I would respond to that person with the same words of Jesus – “O you of little faith!” (cf. Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Ask God to increase your faith and give you assurance of His goodness and faithfulness, and He will grant your request (cf. Matt 7:7; 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9; John 15:7; 16:24; 1 John 3:22).


In summary, a philosopher may contend that human relationships with God do involve risk because of our finitude. Yet, this risk is qualitatively different from the risk involved in human-with-human relationships because God is wholly good, faithful, and trustworthy. Furthermore, a child of God who has received from God full assurance of salvation through the witness of the Holy Spirit will testify that he feels no inclination of risk in his relationship with God. Therefore, human-to-God relationships need not involved any risk.


2.4 God to Human

In summary, risk is an inescapable aspect of all inter-human relationships. Human-with-human relationships always involve risk due to the created nature of humanity (i.e., being finite and having libertarian freedom) and the fallen condition of human nature (i.e., being corrupted by sin). By contrast, inter-trinitarian relationships are completely risk-free. Therefore, risk is not a necessary attribute of relationality. Also, human-to-God relationships do not require risk due to faith, assurance, and the witness of the Spirit.


Whenever a Christian philosopher or theologian contemplates the nature of relationships and relationality, he ought to contemplate the nature of God’s inter-trinitarian relationships first because those relationships are eternally necessary rather than contingent. To understand the characteristics of relationships, more weight or value should be placed upon the nature and attributes of the necessary relationships between the persons of the Trinity, rather than the contingent relationships between contingent human beings.


If the three persons of the Trinity can genuinely relate with each other perfectly well without any element of risk, and if humans can experience genuine relationships with God without risk, then I propose that God can genuinely relate with us humans perfectly well without the need for any element of risk. God’s relationship with humanity does not have to include any risk in order for that relationship to be genuine and meaningful. Consequently, God can know humans perfectly and completely, including all future human decisions, without lessening the meaning or significance of His relationship with humanity.


3. Greek Influence?

Next, I will respond to Peterson’s second claim – that the reason why the church has predominantly affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is because the church has been influenced by Greek philosophy. But first, why would anyone make this claim?


3.1 The Problem for Open Theists

If the Bible supports classical theism (i.e., affirmation of exhaustive divine foreknowledge) better than open theism, then historical evidence should affirm this conclusion. Indeed, historical evidence supports classical theism so greatly that open theists do not deny this reality. After providing a few historic sources affirming open theism, open theist Gregory Boyd admits, “Still, I must concede that the open view has been relatively rare in church history.”[23] Open theists John Sanders agrees saying that “the view that God possesses exhaustive definite foreknowledge has been the dominant view of Christians and non-Christians alike.”[24]


Millard Erickson provides evidence that the church has predominantly affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge from its inception to the 20th century.[25] He could not find a time before which the church denied God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.[26] 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, or (3) people within the church who were not well-known or influential.[27]


Moreover, many of these early church leaders also affirmed libertarian freedom. For example, Justin Martyr,[28] Irenaeus,[29] and Tertullian[30] all affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian freedom.[31] 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.[32] By contrast, Ken Wilson affirms that “no extant Christian author prior to Augustine taught anything other than genuine free choice…”[33] Wilson 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…”[34] Indeed, Sanders agrees that Justin Martyr and Irenaeus affirmed “libertarian human freedom.”[35] Furthermore, John of Damascus, who lived hundreds of years after Augustine, clearly affirmed libertarian freedom and God’s foreknowledge of human decisions.[36] These, and other early church leaders such as Origen,[37] saw no conflict between human freedom and God’s comprehensive foreknowledge. 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.”[38] 


So, if most Christian philosophers, scholars, and theologians throughout church history have affirmed that God knows all future human decisions, then how do open theists explain this reality?


3.2 The Proposed Solution: Greek Influence

Peterson taught in PH 600 that there is “Greek baggage” in the church’s view on divine omniscience. He also said that there is a mix of Greek elements in the church’s view of God’s foreknowledge. Then, Peterson mentioned Boethius’s view of the timelessness of God, and he likewise condemned the doctrine of divine timelessness as being a bad view with Greek baggage which the church should not have added to its doctrines.[39]


Peterson’s remarks correspond with other open theists such as Gregory Boyd and John Sanders.[40] Boyd supposes that in the early church, “the church’s theology was significantly influenced by Plato’s notion that God’s perfection must mean that he is in every respect unchanging—including in his knowledge and experience.”[41] Likewise, Reformed theologian Steven C. Roy concurs with my own observations saying,

When asked why the church, in all of its major eras and theological traditions, has so consistently held to an exhaustive view of divine foreknowledge, open theists consistently speak of the influence of Greek philosophy. For much of its history, they argue, Christian theology has been unduly influenced by Greek philosophy, so much so that its understanding of Scripture has been distorted. Open theists charge that classical theism as a whole, and its view of exhaustive divine foreknowledge in particular, is the product of the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on the early church’s reflection on biblical revelation.[42]


Open theists argue that because the church has been influenced by pagan Greek philosophy, Christians should rid their theology of such pagan Greek influences by denying God’s foreknowledge of human decisions. Written in analytic form, this “Greek Influence Argument” asserts:

(1)  Greek philosophy influenced the church to affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge.

(2)  Being influenced by Greek philosophy is bad.

(3)  Therefore, Christians should avoid being influenced by Greek philosophy.

(4)  Therefore, Christians should avoid affirming exhaustive divine foreknowledge.


On the contrary, I affirm that this argument is unwarranted for two reasons. First, it is not clear that premise (1) is true. Second, Peterson and advocates of open theists use Greek philosophy to promote their views, thus contradicting their own argument.


3.3 No Evidence Supporting the Accusation

First, what evidence supports premise (1)? In his class, Peterson provided no evidence or reasons to explain why one ought to believe that premise (1) is true. While Boyd makes the claim that Plato influenced the early church in its affirmation of God’s foreknowledge, he does not provide evidence to support this claim other than merely recognizing that Plato and the church both affirmed divine perfections, including God’s complete foreknowledge.[43] Likewise, Sanders never provides direct evidence to support premise (1). Now, Sanders does reveal similarities between Greek thought and doctrines of the early church such as immutability, impassibility, timelessness, and foreknowledge. And he adamantly claims that this proves that the church’s theology was more Hellenistic than biblical.[44]


On the contrary, “Similarity of ideas does not always necessarily indicate a causal influence,” as Roy points out.[45]  Furthermore, Sanders admits “the early fathers do not always carefully define their terms.”[46] So, how does Sanders know for certain that the early church’s doctrines of immutability and impassability are more Hellenistic than biblical? Even if the early church were influenced by Greek thought in its description of God as being immutable and impassible, this does not immediately demonstrate that these doctrines (let alone the doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge) are more unbiblical than biblical. As Roy points out, Hellenistic thought does not “necessarily distort the church’s understanding of the Scriptures.”[47] Furthermore, even Sanders agrees that “not all philosophy is bad.”[48] But how does Sanders know that the philosophy of the early church was bad and that his own philosophy is not bad?


Lastly, the proposition that the Bible, rather than Greek philosophy, influenced the early church to affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge is supported by historical evidence that the Bible, rather than Greek philosophy, influenced ancient Jewish sources to affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge. Now, Sanders claims that ancient Jewish sources (namely Philo) were negatively influenced by Greek ideas.[49] However, Russell Fuller counters Sanders’ claims by providing much historical evidence to demonstrate that ancient Rabbinical sources were not influenced by Greek thought nor Philo’s works in their affirmation of God’s foreknowledge. Rather, these Rabbinical sources derived their doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge from the Old Testament.[50] If ancient Jewish sources affirmed the doctrine of exhaustive divine foreknowledge based primarily upon biblical evidence, then it is feasible that the early church did as well.


In summary, open theists are responsible for providing clear evidence and sufficient warrant to support premise (1). Without sufficient evidence or warrant, open theists are guilty of committing the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this; therefore because of this”). This fallacy claims that if “A” occurred 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.


3.4 Greek Influence among Open Theists

Second, the “Greek Influence Argument” is unwarranted because Peterson and others use Greek philosophy to support their own position of open theism. It is inconsistent for Peterson and others to claim that the early church was unduly influenced by Greek philosophy and then use Greek philosophy to support their own position. 


Shortly after protesting about how the church has been unduly influenced by Greek philosophy, Peterson referenced Aristotle to support his view that future tense propositions cannot have any truth value. Peterson briefly described Aristotle’s famous essay regarding a hypothetical future ship battle saying:

Aristotle is not a theist, but he is interested in knowing if you can assign truth values to future propositions. A truth value is either true or false. But what if we say that there will be a sea battle tomorrow. Can we assign truth values to future-tense propositions? Aristotle says that you cannot assign a truth value to a future tense proposition. You can only assign truth values to present realities.[51] 


Peterson then defined omniscience the same way that open theists do – God knows everything that can logically be known. But since future propositions cannot logically be known, then God cannot know future human decisions.


Peterson is not alone in his use of Greek philosophy to support open theism. John Sanders cites multiple Roman/Greek philosophers who affirmed his same view of God’s omniscience. Sanders calls his view of God’s omniscience “dynamic omniscience,” and to support his view, he writes, “Though a distinct minority position, the dynamic omniscience view has also been affirmed by Christians as well as non-Christians.”[52] In an endnote here, Sanders mentions some of these non-Christians who affirmed “dynamic omniscience.” He begins by saying that “Aristotle discussed the issues surrounding the truth value of statements about the future and whether or not these implied determinism.” Sanders continues saying that “Dynamic omniscience was affirmed by Cicero (first century B.C.E.), Alexander of Aphrodisia (second century C.E.) and Porphyry (third century).”[53] Sanders acknowledges that Cicero held a view similar to open theism saying, “Thus if humans have free will, says Cicero, then God does not foreknow what they will choose.”[54] Indeed, Sanders specifically mentions that the church was not influenced by Cicero’s view saying that “Cicero’s views would not become widely influential.”[55] But why was the church influenced by those Greek philosophers who affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge rather than those who denied God’s exhaustive foreknowledge? Sanders offers no answer.


Of note, Sanders affirms that “The earliest Christian proponent of dynamic omniscience found thus far is Calcidius (late fourth century).”[56] Because Calcidius lived in the late 4th century, he lived after Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander of Aphrodisia, and Porphyry. Thus, one could claim that Calcidius, along with all future proponents of open theism, was influenced by pagan philosophers. Indeed, evidence suggests that Calcidius was knowledgeable of Greek Philosophy. David Hunt says that “the little we know about Chalcidius implicates him thoroughly in pagan philosophy. Chalcidius was a Platonist; he translated Plato’s Timaeus and wrote a treatise engaging Stoic arguments on fate. If the Fathers were touched by Platonism, this alleged Openist [i.e., open theist] was thoroughly implicated in it!”[57]


Also, William Hasker has published multiple philosophical arguments in favor of open theism.[58] All of his arguments attempt to prove that if humans possess libertarian freedom, then God cannot know future human decisions. If God knew future human decisions, then humans could not be free in the libertarian sense. However, Hasker’s argument is nothing more than a rehash of Cicero’s philosophy – that it is impossible for God to know future libertarian decisions.[59]


In conclusion, it is inconsistent for Peterson to approvingly cite Aristotle to support his theological position while accusing the early church of being unduly influenced by Greek philosophy when affirming God’s exhaustive foreknowledge. Open theists cannot claim that their position is less Hellenistic and more biblical than classical theism because evidence suggest that they, too, may be influenced by Greek (and Roman) philosophers.


Why should anyone believe that the vast majority of Christian leaders throughout history have been duped by pagan philosophy while open theists are immune to the influences of pagan philosophy? Perhaps open theists are unduly influenced by Greek philosophy when they deny God’s foreknowledge?


Now, I am not saying with definite certainty that all open theists are directly influenced by Greek philosophy. Some may have been influence by Greek philosophy while others may have arrived at their conclusions independently. What I am affirming is that it is inconsistent for open theist to arbitrarily accuse classical theists of being unduly influenced by pagan Greek philosophy while citing Greek philosophers to support their own position.


If the “Greek Influence Argument” is destined to bear any weight, then further evidence is needed to demonstrate a link between Greek philosophy and the affirmation of exhaustive divine foreknowledge in the early church and ancient Jewish sources. Furthermore, open theists must cease promoting their position by citing Greek and Roman philosophers, and they must defend their position from the same accusation of being unduly influenced by Greek philosophy.

 

4. Conclusion

In conclusion, Peterson’s proposition that relationships require risk is untenable because the relationships between the three persons of the Trinity do not involve any sort of risk at all. Likewise, human relationships with God need not involve any risk due to faith and divine assurance (i.e., the witness of the Spirit). Therefore, God’s relationship with humanity need not require risk. Risk is not a necessary attribute in relationships. Therefore, God can know all future human decisions and still engage in perfectly meaningful relationships with humans. God desires a personal relationship with every man and woman whom He has fearfully and wonderfully made, and this relationship is not diminished by His knowledge of our future decisions.


Second, Peterson’s argument that the church was unduly influenced by pagan Greek philosophy in affirming God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is untenable for multiple reasons. First, not enough evidence supports this accusation. Second, this same accusation could be made against open theists with more credibility, for they themselves overtly cite Greek sources to support their position. By contrast, biblical exegesis supports the classical view of God’s omniscience more than the open theist view.[60]



Footnotes

[1] “Dr. Michael L. Peterson,” Asbury Theological Seminary, https://asburyseminary.edu/faculty/michael-peterson/, accessed November 14, 2023.

[2] Cf. Clark Pinnock et al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994); John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, Second Edition. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007); Richard Rice, The Future of Open Theism: From Antecedents to Opportunities (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020). 

[3] For a more detailed definition, see William Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989), 66–67.

[4] Cf. Michael Peterson et al., Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, Fifth Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 146–47, 168, 171. See also, Clark H. Pinnock, “Systematic Theology,” in The Openness of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 121–23; Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 73, 187; William Hasker, “The Foreknowledge Conundrum,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 50.1/3 (2001): 111. For more information on how open theists define God’s omniscience, see Dale Tuggy, “Three Roads to Open Theism,” Faith and Philosophy 24.1 (2007): 28–51, https://doi.org/10.5840/faithphil200724135.

[5] Hunt uses the term “classical theism” to refer to the belief that God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive. See: David P. Hunt, “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism,” in Contending with Christianity’s Critics (Nashville, TN: B&H Academics, 2009), 267, 282. See also Steven C. Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Biblical Study (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 196. 

[6] Of note, John Sanders uses the term “classical theism” to refer exclusively to Augustinian-Calvinism. Cf. Sanders, The God Who Risks, 17, 153–54, 193–97, 218–19, 289–90. By contrast, I will use the term “classical theism” in this paper to refer to any theist who affirms God’s exhaustive foreknowledge.

[7] I took PH 501 in the spring 2022 semester and PH 600 in the fall 2022 semester at Asbury Theological Seminary.

[8] This comes from my class notes for PH 600 taken on November 7, 2022.

[9] William Hasker is one of the co-founders of modern open theism. See: William Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity,” Faith and Philosophy 2.2 (1985): 121–57, https://doi.org/10.5840/faithphil19852212; Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge; William Hasker, “A Philosophical Perspective,” in The Openness of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 126–54; Hasker, “The Foreknowledge Conundrum.”

[10] Sanders, The God Who Risks.

[11] This comes from my class notes for PH 600 taken on November 7, 2022.

[12] Tuggy, “THREE ROADS TO OPEN THEISM,” 48.

[13] This comes from my class notes for PH 600 taken on November 7, 2022.

[14] For a discussion of necessary and contingent beings, see: Peterson et al., Reason and Religious Belief, 89–93.

[15] For more on the doctrine of divine aseity, see: John Webster, “God’s Aseity,” in Realism and Religion: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2007), 147–62.

[16] See the Athanasian Creed, available online at “Athanasian Creed,” Christian Reformed Church, https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/athanasian-creed.

[17] Webster, “God’s Aseity,” 154.

[18] Peter van Mastricht, Faith in the Triune God, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Todd M. Rester and Michael T. Spangler, vol. 2 of Theoretical-Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 521, 524–25.

[19] Being a Wesleyan-Arminian, my view of human freedom is very much the same as that of open theists. I affirm libertarian freedom, albeit qualified by a Wesleyan understanding of original sin, total depravity, and prevenient grace to avoid the heresies of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Cf. Kenneth J. Collins, The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007), 49–82.

[20] For more details on the doctrine of original sin, see Thomas H. McCall, Against God and Nature: The Doctrine of Sin (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019). See especially chapters 4-6.

[21] For details on the witness of the Spirit with our own spirit, see John Wesley’s sermons “The Witness of the Spirit I,” The Witness of the Spirit II,” and “The Witness of Our Own Spirit.” Kenneth J. Collins and Jason Vickers, eds., The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2013), 194–213, 224–32. See also, Collins, The Theology of John Wesley, 129–37, 140–42, 303–4.

[22] For more details on the nature and definition of faith, see Wesley’s sermons “Salvation by Faith” and “Justification by Faith.” Collins and Vickers, The Sermons of John Wesley, 125–43. See also Collins and Vickers, The Sermons of John Wesley, 585. See also Collins, The Theology of John Wesley, 165–69.

[23] Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 115. 

[24] Sanders, The God Who Risks, 166.

[25] Millard Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 87–109.

[26] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 131.

[27] Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 111–31.

[28] Justin Martyr, The First Apology of Justin 43-44 (ANF 1:117).

[29] 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).

[30] Tertullian, Against Marcion 2.5 (ANF 3:300-301) and 2.7 (ANF 3:303).

[31] For more details, see my article Kirk Bagby, “The Early Church Against Open Theism,” Bagby Ministries, 15 May 2022, https://www.bagbyministries.org/post/early-church-against-open-theism.

[32] Compatibilism affirms that theological determinism and human freedom are somehow compatible. Dr. Ken Wilson describes this view of human freedom as “non-free free will.” Ken Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism (United States of America: Regula Fidei Press, 2019).

[33] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 18.

[34] Wilson, The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism, 19–20. See also the chart on pp. 120-121.

[35] John Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” in The Openness of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 73–74.

[36] John Damascene, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 2.25-30 (NPNF 2.9:39-44).

[37] Cf. Origen, Origen against Celsus 2.20 (ANF 4:440).

[38] Thomas C. Oden, Classic Christianity (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1992), 50. Emphasis added.

[39] This comes from my class notes for PH 600 taken on November 7, 2022.

[40] Boyd, God of the Possible, 115, 130–32; Sanders, “Historical Considerations.”

[41] Boyd, God of the Possible, 115.

[42] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 195–96.

[43] Boyd, God of the Possible, 115, 130–31.

[44] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 72–85.

[45] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 202. Erickson seems to concur. Cf. Erickson, What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?, 250.

[46] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 72.

[47] Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?, 204.

[48] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 100.

[49] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 68–72.

[50] Russell Fuller, “The Rabbis and the Claims of Openness Advocates,” in Beyond the Bounds (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 23–41.

[51] This is a paraphrase of what Peterson taught in class in PH 600 on November 7, 2022, taken from my class notes.

[52] Sanders, The God Who Risks, 166.

[53] Sanders, The God Who Risks, 321.

[54] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 68.

[55] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 68.

[56] Sanders, The God Who Risks, 166.

[57] David P. Hunt, “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism,” in Contending with Christianity’s Critics (Nashville, TN: B&H Academics, 2009), 275.

[58] Hasker, “Foreknowledge and Necessity”; Hasker, God, Time, and Knowledge, 64–74; Hasker, “The Foreknowledge Conundrum.”

[59] Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” 68. For a response to one of Hasker’s arguments, see Kirk Bagby, “Must Clarence Eat the Omelet?: A Response to Open Theism,” Bagby Ministries, 5 December 2022, https://www.bagbyministries.org/post/must-clarence-eat-the-omelet.

[60] For a detailed analysis of how the Bible opposes open theism, see Roy, How Much Does God Foreknow?

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