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God’s Foreknowledge. Does He Know
Everything The Future Holds -  Including What Decisions Humans Will Make?

Carol Brooks


On the surface certain Biblical passages appear to be saying that God's foreknowledge is limited.
These passages can be grouped into categories

PART I - The Four Categories
God Tested Israel
Unfulfilled Prophecy
God Asked Questions
God 'Regretted' Something

Part II - The General Impossibility Of Open Theism
God Cannot Possibly Foreordain an Event Without Knowing What Humans Are Going to Do

Theological Fatalism?


How God Chooses


The Final Question

The majority of orthodox Christians subscribe to the view that God is omniscient, i.e. He has complete and unlimited knowledge of everything that has ever happened, is happening now, and will ever happen.

However, in recent years a few scholars, who claim there is no divine script for the future, have proposed a radically different view called Open Theism, called so because they believe that God's knowledge of the future is 'open'. Leading champions of open theism include theologian, pastor, and author Gregory Boyd, professor of philosophy David Basinger, philosopher William Hasker, Christian theologian Clark Pinnock, Christian theologian John Sanders, Richard Rice - a Seventh-day Adventist theologian and author who is said to have actually come up with the term Open Theism

Supporters of the doctrine can be roughly divided into several camps.

    1. The first believes that although all aspects of the future are knowable by God, He voluntarily limits His knowledge of our free will choices so that we remain truly free. 

    2. The second is best defined by Gregory Boyd in his book God of the Possible. He says the future is "partly determined and known by God, but also partly open and known by God as such" [01]

    3. The third camp maintains that God knows all there is to know in the past and present however, the future that hasn't yet happened is not knowable - even by God. Although God does not have infallible knowledge of what each of us will choose to do, He is all-wise thus able to predict our future actions with great accuracy.

Open Theism is based on certain Biblical passages that on the surface appear to be saying that God's foreknowledge is limited. These passages can be grouped into categories.

None support open theism

Part I. The Four Categories

God Tested Israel: The first category involves the fact that God said He 'tested' Israel. Open theists contend that God had to test the nation in order to learn what they would do under certain circumstances.

Unfulfilled Prophecy: The second category involves allegedly failed prophecies.

God Asked Questions: In this third category, God asked questions that He did not know the answers to. For example, He asked Moses how long the people would spurn Him, and the prophet Hosea how long they would be incapable of innocence. And, on more than one occasion, He asked about someone's whereabouts - Cain where his brother Abel was (Genesis 4:9) - Abraham where Sarah was (Genesis 18:9).

God 'Regretted' Something: Verses in the fourth category describe God as 'regretting' something He had done. Open theists argues that God could not feel 'regret' for something if He knew in advance what was going to happen. Therefore, as the argument goes, He could not foreknown what decisions people would make.

God Tested Israel
Open theists contend that God had to test the nation in order to learn what they would do under certain circumstances. 'Two common 'proof texts' are

    You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2 NASB)

    you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:3 NASB)

However, we have to remember that God rewards or punishes on the basis of our actions, not according to His foreknowledge. We have to actually do it before it counts.

Conditional Prophecy
A very similar situation exists with what is called 'conditional prophecy' which means that the prophecy is contingent upon man's response. IF they do something they will be blessed, IF they do not they will be punished. Quite honestly I find "conditional prophecy" a rather pretentious term which is more than a little confusing. Why not call it what it is - a warning?

Forgetting that it is a simple warning, the book The Openness of God says

If God knows the future exhaustively then conditional prophecies lose their integrity.. They do not express genuine divine intention. They are nothing more than hypothetical assertions that God knows fully will never be realized. [02]

The authors then bring up the example of Nineveh, capitol of Assyria. The people were told by the prophet Jonah that the city would be destroyed in forty days. In summary, the Ninevites repented and the city was spared. The book says...

In the traditional view, Jonah's announcement that Nineveh would be destroyed did not represent something that God really intended to do, since he knew exactly how the Ninevites would respond. It was simply a ploy that produced the desired result. [03]

Merriam Webster defines the word 'ploy" as being "a clever trick or plan that is used to get someone to do something or to gain an advantage over someone". The Free Dictionary says it is "an action calculated to frustrate an opponent or gain an advantage indirectly or deviously".

Are they seriously accusing our God of using devious means to to get the Assyrians to do what He wanted?

It is true that God knew ahead of time that they would repent and He would not destroy their city. However, He could not have spared them if they didn't amend their ways - and since the Assyrians were a bloodthirsty and horribly cruel bunch they would not have done so had they not been given such a severe ultimatum.

And please note that we have been issued with exactly the same warning. What we choose to do with it is our decision regardless of whether God already knows what our decision will be. And, since very few will heed what God has said, they will face the consequences. See The Warning of The Bible

Which brings us to the second category.

Unfulfilled Prophecy?
Open theists claim that God could not always have been sure about something in the future because not all Biblical prophecies were fulfilled exactly as predicted. The "general example" given in Openness of God is that God genuinely wants all people to be saved but doesn't always get what He wants. In their words,

    God does not want "anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9); he "wants all all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim 2:4); cf. Tit 2:11. Yet it appears that not all will be saved. According to Jesus; statement, all of the dead will come back to life - "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, the the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29 NRSV) [04]

Quite obviously they are quoting the English version of 2 Peter 3:9 and I Timothy 2:4 but, in order to accurately understand these verses, we need to know exactly what Greek words the authors used. A closer look at the original language is what prompted the NASB translations.

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (Gr. boulomai) for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

    who wants (Gr. thelo) all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 NASB)

Boulomai: The Greek word boulomai in the first example is not always used in the sense of absolute determination (which is why is it translated "wishing" in the NASB). It has several nuances of meaning including wish, desire, purpose, etc. as the following examples show.

    And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting (Gr. boulomai) to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.  (Matthew 1:19 NASB)

    Wishing (Gr. boulomai) to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15 NASB)

    saying, "Father, if You are willing (Gr. boulomai), remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42 NASB)

    In this confidence I intended (Gr. boulomai) at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing; (2 Corinthians 1:15 NASB)

Thelo: This word is used in 1 Timothy 2:4.) Again it can mean to determine, choose or prefer; by implication to wish, be inclined to etc. Note the following examples

    "If anyone wants (Gr. thelo) to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (Matthew 5:40 NASB)

    but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished (Gr. thelo). So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." (Matthew 17:12 NASB)

    but I could wish (Gr. thelo) to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.  (Galatians 4:20 NASB)

To summarize verses like 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4 do not read that God wills that all men be saved but would like all men to be. 

The Next Seven Are From Clark Pinnock's Book Most Moved Mover
(Although a Christian theologian and Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at McMaster Divinity College, at times Pinnock showed an astounding ignorance of the Scriptures)

1.) "Joseph's parents never bowed to him (Gen. 37:9-10)"

This was the second of two dreams Joseph had. The first was about sheaves in the field - his sheaf standing erect while the others bowed down to it (Vs. 6-8).

Quite obviously this was symbolic. So why exactly did Mr. Pinnock anticipate Joseph's parents and brothers literally bowing down to him?

Both dreams symbolized Joseph's future power and position.

2.) "The Assyrians did not destroy Jerusalem in the eighth century (Mic. 3:9-12)"

The verses in question read

     Now hear this, heads of the house of Jacob And rulers of the house of Israel, Who abhor justice And twist everything that is straight, Who build Zion with bloodshed And Jerusalem with violent injustice. Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD saying, "Is not the LORD in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us." Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Micah 3:9-12 NASB)

It says nothing about the Assyrians nor about the time frame. The last verse was fulfilled to a certain extent by Nebuchadnezzar; but fully and literally by the Romans under Titus.

3.) "despite Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer the city of Tyre”

This I will leave to another. aboutbibleprophecy.com says it well.

    Non-believers often interpret this prophecy found in Ezekiel 26:1-21 as meaning that Nebuchadnezzar was supposed to be the one who destroyed Tyre. Believers, however, including myself, often interpret this prophecy as meaning that "many nations" were supposed to destroy the Phoenician city of Tyre, over a long period of time, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar. We base our interpretation on verse 3, which states that "many nations" would attack Tyre, like waves casting against the shore. And history shows that many nations did attack Tyre. Alexander the Great used ships from many nations to conquer the island city in about 332 BC, bringing a permanent end to the Phoenician Empire

    As for the prophecy found in Ezekiel 26, the difference between a believer and a skeptic can boil down to a single word - the word "they" in verse 12.

    The skeptics contend that the word "they" in verse 12 refers to Nebuchadnezzar's men in verses 7-11. And if that were true, then one could argue convincingly that the prophecy was not fulfilled.

    But, the believers, including myself, contend that the word "they" in verse 12 refers to the "many nations" in verse 3 and the "nations" in verse 5. And if this is true, then one could argue convincingly that the prophecy was fulfilled. With this rendering of the word "they", Tyre was supposed to be attacked by a succession of nations, like the sea casting up its waves, one at a time, over time. And Tyre was indeed attacked by a succession of nations over time. Since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre has been conquered or ruled over by the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Crusaders and the Arabs, who destroyed the city, again, in 1291.

    Skeptics and believers can certainly agree that verses 7-11 are specifically about Nebuchadnezzar and his men. But, nowhere in those verses is the word "they" ever used. In fact, it almost seems that Ezekiel goes out of his way not to use the word "they." [05]

4.) The Stones of the Temple
Clark Pinnock claims that Jesus' prediction about the fall of Jerusalem  was inaccurate because  "Despite Jesus, in the destruction of the temple, some stones were left one on the other (Matthew 24:2)" [06]

This is based on the fact that the Western Wall (the Wailing Wall) was left standing when the temple was destroyed. However, if you read the verse carefully you will see that the disciples had drawn Jesus' attention to the Temple building.

    Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." (Matthew 24:1-2 NASB)

The Western Wall is not and never has been part of the Temple buildings. It was one of the several supporting walls of a platform on which Herod (well-known for massive building projects) built the Temple. Today all that is left to the Jews is this one wall which is the closest they can get to their beloved Temple. Although speculation abounds no one is sure of the exact spot where the original Temple was.

To get an idea of how massive the walls of the Temple were copy and paste either of these links into your browser. https://goo.gl/d39zWV and https://goo.gl/IWDGn9

5.) Isaiah's Golden Age
Clark Pinnock also writes that "despite Isaiah, Israel's return from exile did not usher in a golden age (Is. 41:14-20)

 Isaiah 41 has nothing to do with a "golden age" but was God's reassurance to Israel that He was with them. He would strengthen and help them and their enemies would be as nothing and perish (Vs. 10- 11). He then challenged the idolatrous nations to prove that their idols are indeed gods by foretelling the future. He also challenged them to do something - good or evil. But because they are weak and feeble and could do none of this God said they were "of no account", and their work amounts to nothing. The Father adds "He who chooses you is an abomination".

In contrast to the false gods the LORD said He will arouse one from the north. This was a direct reference to king Cyrus who would defeat the Babylonians who conquered Judah and Jerusalem and took them captive. God would use Cyrus to allow the Jews in exile to return (Ezra 1).

In the opening verses of the next chapter God introduces His "Chosen one" (Please remember that there were no chapter and verse divisions in the original Hebrew)  The New Testament authors certain applied several descriptions in the early verses of chapter to the Messiah. See Footnote I. They certainly don't fit anyone else. 

6.) Jesus and The Wicked
"despite the Baptist, Jesus did not cast the wicked into the fire".

I presume Mr. Pinnock is referring to Matthew 3:10 that has John the Baptist telling the the Pharisees and Sadducees

    "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

However, of you read it in context the very first thing John said was (emphasis added) "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (V.7)

See The End Of The Age   And    The Wrath Of God

7.) The Second Coming
"Contrary to Paul, the second coming was not around the corner" (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

If Paul said it was around the corner I certainly missed it. However, if you read the verse in context it says

    For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB)

As far as I know, from Paul's day to this, the Lord has not descended from heaven. And if He had shouted I doubt many would have missed it.


King Jehoiakim's Fate
Two of Jeremiah's prophecies concerned king Jehoiakim

    Therefore thus says the LORD in regard to Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, "They will not lament for him: 'Alas, my brother!' or, 'Alas, sister!' They will not lament for him: 'Alas for the master!' or, 'Alas for his splendor!' "He will be buried with a donkey's burial, Dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 22:18-19 NASB) Also See Jeremiah 36:30-31

    'Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, "He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. "I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them - but they did not listen."'" (Jeremiah 36:30-31 NASB)

About these verses the web site ReKnew.org says

    Jeremiah prophesied that Jehoiakim would die a dishonorable death. It is said that no one would mourn for him and that his corpse would be dragged around and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem, left unburied to decompose in the sun (Jer. 22:18-19, cf. 36:30). Not only this, but it was prophesied that no descendent of his would sit on the throne (Jer. 36:30-31). As it turned out, however, Jehoiakim received a proper burial and his son succeeded him as king (2 Kg. 24:6).

Much to the contrary in speaking of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Josephus wrote,

    Yet when he was come into the city, he did not observe the covenants he had made; but he slew such as were in the flower of their age, and such as were of the greatest dignity: together with their King Jehoiakim: whom he commanded to be thrown before the walls, without any burial; [07]

And absolutely nothing in the Scriptures says Jehoiakim received a proper burial.

ReKnew.org goes on to quote 2 Kings 24:6

    "So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son became king in his place".  [08]

In the first place the expression "slept with his fathers" does not necessarily mean being buried with his fathers but that he died just as they did. Note: shākab the Hebrew word rendered 'slept' is also used in the sense of lying down to have sex (Genesis 19:32) or to sleep (Exodus 22:27 and Deuteronomy 6:7).

Additionally, 2 Chronicles 33:20 tells us that king  "Manasseh slept (shākab) with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house. And Amon his son became king in his place". It is hardly likely that Manasseh's fathers were buried in his house.

And as far as Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin becoming king in his father's place, Jeremiah probably discounted him as king of Israel because he reigned only three months and ten days before he too was carted off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar then appointed his kinsman Zedekiah king over Judah and Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:9-10).

Another of Jeremiah's prophecies concerned king Zedekiah, the third of Josiah's four sons (his brothers were Jehoahaz aka Shallum and Jehoiakim aka Eliakim)

    "Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the LORD concerning you, 'You will not die by the sword. 'You will die in peace; and as spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so they will burn spices for you; and they will lament for you, "Alas, lord!"' For I have spoken the word," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 34:4-5 NASB)

About this ReKnew.org goes on to say

    Jeremiah declares to Zedekiah that the Lord says "You will not die by the sword "but will rather "die peacefully." The Lord adds that people will mourn his death (Jer. 34:4-5). As it turned out, Zedekiah was captured by the Babylonians, blinded, and died in prison (Jer. 52:8-11).  [09]

Although the Chaldean army slaughtered his sons before his eyes (along with all the princes of Judah), Zedekiah died in prison not by the sword just as Jeremiah prophesied. Besides which he could could very well have had a peaceful death. His nephew Jeconiah captive in Babylon for many years didn't seem to be ill treated. A clay tablet found in the ruins of ancient Babylon near the Ishtar Gate in Iraq mentions Jeconiah king of Judah and his sons as recipients of food rations in 592-569 B.C. including oil and barley. It called him "Yaukin king of the land of Judea.“

See The Curse Of Jeconiah

God Asked Questions
1 John 3:20 does not say God has the capacity to know all things but that God actually "knows all things" (1 John 3:20). However, if God knows everything why do some situations in the Bible seem to indicate otherwise? For example God asked about someone's whereabouts on four different occasions.

     In Genesis 3:9 God called out to Adam and asked "Where are you?"

     In Genesis 4:9 God asked Cain where his brother Abel was.

     In Genesis 18:9 The Lord asked Abraham where Sarah was.

     In Job 38:4 God asked Job where he was when He (God) laid the foundations of the earth.

 God appeared to ask both Moses and Hosea how long the people would do or not do something.

    He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, "My anger burns against them!" How long will they be incapable of innocence?  (Hosea 8:5 NASB)

    The Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? and how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? (Numbers 14:11 NASB)

Are we really to believe that God did not know where Job was when He created the world, that He did not know where in the garden Adam was and that he was unaware of the physical whereabouts of Abel and Sarah?

Of course not! They were all rhetorical questions, not designed to elicit an answer.

Moses and Hosea
It would have been just plain silly had God literally asked Moses how long the people would spurn Him and asked Hosea how long Israel would continue their transgressions. How in the world could either of the men have known? (although one can be pretty sure they would have made fairly accurate guesses)

Adam and Cain
In the cases of Adam and Cain it seems fairly obvious that both questions were again rhetorical asked in order to afford each man the opportunity to own up to their sin. We ourselves do not always ask questions because we are ignorant of the answers. just as the mother who knows their child spilt milk on the kitchen floor asks who did so.

God wasn't literally asking Job where he was when He first created the world (even we know the answer to that one.) It was rhetorical question. Although God knew that Job was a righteous man and eventually restored to him all that he had lost, His questions were designed to remind Job of the power and majesty of the Father.

When God came to Abraham in Genesis 18, He was not there to savor Sarah's cooking or partake of Abraham's hospitality, but to tell them something very important. The "where is Sarah?" question was very possibly asked so that she too would hear what He had to say.

Although including a woman was not very common in those days, the Lord's message had as much to do with her as Abraham. It is interesting that God had already told Abraham that Sara would bear a child in a year or so (See Genesis 17:19, 21). Either Abraham had neglected to tell Sara this or she was not convinced. Either way it seems believe the words of our Lord were directed more at Sarah than Abraham.

In Genesis 18:21, the Lord seemed to say that He had to physically visit earth in order to verify what He had heard about Sodom.

On that day Abraham was visited by God Himself and two other 'men' - presumably angels (Genesis 18:1-2). After delivering His message about Sara bearing a child and eating a meal with Abraham, they headed towards Sodom - Abraham walking with them to send them off. It was then that the Lord asked what was either a rhetorical question or one directed at the angels - "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? (Genesis 18:17 NASB). Deciding that He would tell Abraham, the Lord said,

    "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. "I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know (Gr. yāda). " (Genesis 18:20-21 NASB)

Although it is not explicitly stated this is probably how Abraham found out about God's intent to destroy the city. The Lord was not 'going down' to learn what was going on but deliberately brought the matter to Abraham's attention which is what prompted Abraham to boldly intercede with God for Sodom.

In Genesis 22:12, it seems that God did not know what Abraham would do until Abraham actually made a choice.

    After Abraham had proved himself willing to sacrifice his only son, God said "... for now I know (Gr. yāda) that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Genesis 22:12 NASB)

In the case of Abraham, regardless of the fact that God knew ahead of time what Abraham's response was going to be, He could not possibly act upon His knowledge until the response was made. God could not assign faith to Abraham based on what He knew would happen, but had to wait until Abraham actually exercised that faith. We have to freely and without compunction make and execute our own choices before God will act on them.

In both verses 'know' was translated from yāda a word that Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says can be used in a great variety of senses - figuratively, literally, euphemistically etc.

    Note: As a side note, it is also good to remember that the command to Abraham was intended to foreshadow what God Himself would do many centuries later on Calvary. As David Guzik says in his commentary of Genesis 22, "When God asked Abraham for the ultimate demonstration of love and commitment, He asked for Abraham's son. When the Father wanted to show us the ultimate demonstration of His love and commitment to us, He gave us His Son." See Salvation

God 'Regretted' or "Repented of' Something
What may be confusing to some is the fact that the Bible also talks of God "repenting" - largely translated from the Hebrew word nācham. However, nācham carries several shades of meaning making it inaccurate to use just one English word in our translations. This is why newer translations tend to use other English words that are believed to more accurately convey the meaning of the particular passage. For example, nācham was rendered 'repent' in the KJV translation of the verses below. However, the NASB uses sorry and regret.   

    The Lord was sorry (Gr. nācham) that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:6 NASB)

    "I regret (Gr. nācham) that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands." (1 Samuel 15:11 NASB)

Note: 'being sorry' or expressing 'regret' doesn't necessarily mean one is sorry for one's own actions. It can simply mean 'sad'.

God is not (as some believe) indifferent and impassionate towards people but in Genesis 6:6 was expressing emotion over what had happened. In fact, God's emotions can be described in human terms as numerous Bible verses do.

    How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert!  (Psalms 78:40 NASB)

    "You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, Nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; Rather you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities". (Isaiah 43:24 NASB)

    But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10 NASB)

Just because God knew ahead of time that men would go hopelessly astray doesn't mean that He is indifferent when they do.  It is no wonder that in Genesis 6:6 nacham (translated sorry) is in the context of God's emotions at the state of morality on the earth.

When it comes to king Saul we can be sure that God was not caught off guard by how he turned out because God had already announced centuries earlier that the coming king would be of the line of Judah.

In Genesis 49, Jacob calls his sons together in order to tell them what would befall each of them in the coming days. When he got to Judah (not the most exemplary of characters) Jacob said

    "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Genesis 49:10 NASB)

Each point refers to the Messiah who was called "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" in Revelation 5:5. In other words, the permanent rulership (depicted by a scepter) belonged to someone from the line of Judah. Since Saul belonged to the house of Benjamin, his line could not stay on the throne , i.e. the last and final king could not be one of his descendants. It was David who had to be king. In his words...

    "Yet, the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. (1 Chronicles 28:4 NASB)

The fact that Jacob unerringly prophesied that the scepter would never depart from Judah throws a very large spanner into Open Theism. God knew all along that Saul would not make the grade which did not however, stop Him from expressing sorrow over Saul's disobedience.

Also See Can God Change His Mind?

Part II. The General Impossibility Of Open Theism
The idea that God does not know everything that will occur in the future flatly contradicts what the Bible says about the foreknowledge of God. Although the actual word is not used, the first few verses of Psalm 139 are a very clear account of God's omniscience.

    O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (Psalms 139:1-4 NASB) Emphasis Added

However, Open Theism also contradicts common sense simply because...

God Cannot Possibly Foreordain an Event Without Knowing What Humans Are Going to Do
In Isaiah 46:9-10 God, distinguishing Himself from false and dead idols, tells us that unlike them, He knows the end from the beginning and will not fail to carry out all His plan.

    Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; (Isaiah 46:9-10 NASB)

How can God declare the end from the beginning without knowing what men will do in the future? To a greater or lesser degree all intended action depends on other factors. For example I intend to drive to work this morning. However I do not know that Mr. X is going to run a red light at an intersection causing me to wind up in hospital instead.

However, it is not the same thing when it comes to God. He has to absolutely know that some lunatic is not going to set off a nuclear device and bring this world to an end this week, thus rendering most of the book of Revelation redundant.

Lets look at some specific examples.

The pages of Scripture are replete with examples of God telling people what His future purpose and intentions are and what He plans to bring about. The most outstanding being, of course, the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Acts 2:23 tells us that Jesus was "delivered over (to His executioners) by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God..."

See Only Jesus Was Foretold Centuries in Advance
The prophets gave us specific details about Jesus' birth, the miracles He worked, His betrayal, death, and resurrection

Other examples of God's fore ordination include the destruction of Judah by Babylon..

    behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' declares the Lord, 'and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.' (Jeremiah 25:9 NASB)

The invasion and defeat of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians

    Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, nor will their eye pity children. and Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isaiah 13:17-19 NASB)

    Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! The Lord has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, Because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; For it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for His temple.  (Jeremiah 51:11 NASB)

There is no question that God Himself was responsible for all these events - He caused them to happen. However, in most cases one cannot separate foreknowledge from fore ordination. This because virtually all intended action depends, to a greater or lesser degree, on other factors. God's intended actions are no different. He could neither have predicted or planned anything unless He knew ahead of time what people were going to do. 

Let me explain.

Old Testament
Invasion of Jerusalem
The Bible is very clear that it was the sins of the people that brought the Babylonians down on their heads.

    So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. and Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness.  (1 Chronicles 9:1 NASB)

    But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. (Ezra 5:12 NASB)

Jeremiah 25:3 says that "From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened".Therefore God was going to bring Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon against them. This was said in Nebuchadnezzar's first year.

Jeremiah 52:12 says that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem in his nineteenth year

In other words, the people had some 18 years to heed Jeremiah's words about Nebuchadnezzar. Had they repented and changed their ways, we can be very sure that the Lord would have stayed Nebuchadnezzar's hand, which would have made the prophecy in Jeremiah 25:1-9 false.

In other words, God knew well ahead of time what the people's choices would be, i.e. they would not amend their ways.

It is exactly the same case in Genesis 15. When God said the following words to Abraham, He knew the Amorites would not change their ways and that by the time four generations had past, their iniquity would be full to the brim.

    "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. "As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. "Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." (Genesis 15:13-16 NASB)

If, as open theism posits, God cannot definitively know what people will do in the future, then Him telling Abraham to "know for certain" that certain events would transpire was nothing but an enormous gamble. In fact, He was giving Abraham false hope.

Overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians
A whole series of events had to take place before the Medes and the Persians could invade Babylon together. They were  geographical neighbors however, according to Herodotus, Persia was made a vassal of Media in the seventh century BCE but freed itself in the sixth century BCE under the leadership of Cyrus II, also called Cyrus the Great.

Was the decision to go to war against the Medes a free will choice of Cyrus, or was it foreordained by God?

Daniel's Prophecies
The prophet Daniel, a young Jewish exile in Babylon, accurately predicted the rise of successive world empires from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king about 600 B.C. to the Roman Empire which began to come into power around 241 B.C. [DETAILS] It is all very well to say that Daniel's prophecies involved the rise and fall of several kingdoms. However, consider the number of people who were involved in the decisions that led to the events taking place as described.

Take Greece for example. Was it Divine prompting that made Alexander the Great want to conquer the world and in the process, defeat King Darius III and overthrow the Persian empire - or was it his own personal ambition?

If we go way back to the founding of Rome, one has to ask whether God prompted Lucius Junius Brutus to revolt against the very oppressive Etruscan monarchs in 509 BC, without which event it is a distinct possibility that there would never have been a Roman republic. In any case, think of the enormous number of decisions made by humans that eventually shaped the Roman Empire into a world power capable of defeating the Greeks

In Summary, in order to bring about everything the prophets said, whether it was about the nation of Israel, or of the rise and fall of various other kingdoms, God would have had to, either directly or indirectly, intervene in literally millions of individual thoughts, choices, decisions and actions.

If you go through the history of these nations you can find any number of situations in which it is appropriate to ask - Was human free will in play, or did God influence every relevant decision made by humans along the way?  If God pre-planned all these events, then either human free will does not exist, or is often overridden to fit in with God's plan. 

New Testament
Judas' betrayal of Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament. Psalms 41:9 reads

    Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalms 41:9 NASB)

Jesus expressly applied these words to Judas, as did Peter

    "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'he who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'  (John 13:18 NASB)

    "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. (Acts 1:16 NASB)

If God cannot know what future choices anyone other than He Himself will make, then one had to wonder how David prophesied the betrayal. Again, if it was in God's plan for Judas to betray the Christ then Judas had no choice in the matter and had to comply - a horrendous thought.

One very interesting example of God's foreknowledge is when Jesus told Peter what he would do within the next few hours, a prophecy that is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30-72, Luke 22:34, and John 13:38). In Matthew's account, just three verses before the prophecy was made Jesus, partially quoting Zechariah 13:7, told the disciples

    You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'  (Matthew 26:31 NASB)

In other words, He Himself would be struck down and all the disciples would desert Him. Upon which Peter, true to form, piped up and said he would never fall away, even if all the others did. Jesus then told Peter that, that very night, he would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed.

Which is exactly what happened.

Peter followed Jesus into the courtyard  of the high priest, and was recognized as being with Jesus by a servant-girl . Peter who in all likelihood feared for his life, denied that He knew Jesus. Apparently hoping to make his escape, verse 71 says Peter went out to the gate where he was recognized by another servant-girl and again denied knowing Jesus. As verse 73 says, a little later some bystanders came up and accused Peter of being "one of them" for even his accent revealed that he was a Galilean. Peter responded to this third accusation by cursing and swearing that he did not know Jesus. It seems that he had barely got the words out of his mouth when the cock crowed and Peter remembered Jesus' words, "Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." and he went out and wept bitterly (Vs.75).

It is sometimes said that the Lord knew Peter well enough to predict what he would do. While this may be true to some extent, it does not tell us how Jesus knew for certain that

    1) Peter alone would follow Him into the courtyard where he ran the risk of being recognized. The other disciples were nowhere to be found.

    2) This would happen within the next few hours. The prediction not only specifically says what Peter would do, but that it would happen that very night.

    3) That the rooster would crow not only at precisely the right time, but would do so twice. (Note it is only Mark who mentions that the rooster would crow twice. See Footnote II

Finally, without divine foreknowledge, Jesus could not possibly have known Peter would not draw from some deep inner courage and find the strength to say "Yes I was with the Christ". People are known to do some very unexpected and very brave things.

It has been suggested that because God can and does influence the course of history, He was perfectly capable of causing Peter to follow Jesus into the courtyard, influencing both the servant girl's accusations and Peter's denial, and causing the rooster to crow at the appropriate time.

Of course this is a possibility, but is it likely? What earthly purpose did it serve to orchestrate this entire episode that had no bearing on the major event, i.e. the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. It could not have been done to point out something to Peter himself, because if God foreordained the entire sequence of events, it made hash of Peter's free will and could not possibly have taught him something about his own character.

It seems not only simpler, but far more plausible that when Peter vehemently denied that he would every deny Christ, Jesus seeing into the future (I use this term loosely), simply spelled out what Peter would do when confronted. In fact, in an extremely significant verse in the book of John, Jesus told the disciples that from then on they would know He was God by His ability to foretell the future.

    "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. (John 13:19 NASB) (See The Deity of Jesus Christ)

Which brings up the whole question of free will

Theological Fatalism
is the belief that God's infallible knowledge of a future human action makes that action necessary.. In other words, we cannot choose to do something other than what is 'known' by God. Thus we are not truly free but are predestined to fulfill the future that God already knows.

In other words - free will is non-existent. 

Returning to the episode involving Peter's denial - once Jesus had made His prediction about Peter His words became part of the unalterable past. Regardless of what Peter may or may not have been inclined to do, God's foreknowledge did away with any pretense to Peter's free will.

However, the Scripture are crystal clear on the subject of free will. An uncountable number of verses make it very clear that mankind has been given the responsibility of freely choosing his own path and is, in fact, instructed to do so. If God instructs us to choose for ourselves but our choices are restricted to His knowledge, the following verses are pure hypocrisy.

     I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, (Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB)

    If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NASB)

    Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.  (Proverbs 3:31 NASB)

    Let us choose for ourselves what is right; Let us know among ourselves what is good.  (Job 34:4 NASB)

     Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20 NASB)

    and if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:14-15 NASB)

    "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. (Acts 7:51 NASB)

    Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB)

    For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:10-12 NASB)

    Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. (1 Peter 2:16 NASB)

Also See What a Sovereign God Cannot Do

During the course of our lives we make innumerable decisions. Although they don't come along every day, some of these decisions are crucially important ones that usually have very large and long-lasting impact on our lives. Most common among these are what career to pursue, who to marry, etc.

However there is one decision that cannot possibly be understated and that is the decision to follow Christ - to be reborn. What you choose to do in that arena will determine your fate, not only for your seventy odd years on this planet but for all eternity. 

It is interesting to note how many Calvinists believe that unregenerate people possess free will and strongly defend the doctrine. Yet they also believe that God has already predetermined the 'free' man's fate. Man can and does decide everything else for himself but this one momentous, vital decision has already been made for him and, like a fish caught in a net, there is nothing he can do about it. Wiggle as he may, he is trapped for all eternity.

Predestination has been amply covered in another section of the site. See A Question of Salvation

However, since man's free will is an integral part of this article, I would like to address one 'proof text' often presented by Calvinists as an example of how, if not properly considered, individual Bible verses can be made to 'prove' doctrines that the Bible knows nothing about.

When it comes to Ephesians 1:11-13 the problem is that were we to pay more attention to the details, these verses do not show that everyone's eternal destiny is predestined by God. Much to the contrary, they show exactly the opposite. 

In Ephesians 1:11-13 Paul says that, in Christ..

     (11) ... we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (12) to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (13) In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:11-13 NASB)

There is a distinct difference made between the 'we' of verse 11 and the 'you also' of verse 13. (In fact, in this chapter Paul uses the words 'we' and 'us' continuously until verse 13 when he switches to the second person 'you'.

Most commentators assume that when Paul said 'we', he meant Christian converts in general. However, the fact that he said we are the ones "who first trusted in Christ' means he was speaking of the disciples and apostles. This is exemplified by the fact that he then "you also" heard, believed, and was sealed.

So the "we" that were "predestined according to His purpose" simply shows that the disciples and apostles not the general population were foreordained by God to play a pivotal role in the spreading of the Gospel. 

This of course, brings us to the obvious question.

How God Chooses
Here is what I find truly bizarre. If, as Open Theists believe, God cannot know the future and what decisions and choices men will make, we are forced to the conclusion that He takes risks. Which would mean that when Jesus chose the disciples to spread the message of the kingdom, He had absolutely NO idea whether any of these men would actually fulfill the responsibility of the task entrusted to them, or whether you would find them down at 'Ye Old Jerusalem Pub" during happy hour.

In which case, His death on the cross would have been a complete waste of time.

Are we are seriously to believe that this was a risk God was willing to take?

In view of the fact that the Bible so emphatically emphasizes man's free will, it is impossible to believe that even for such a crucial purpose God overrode the disciples right to make their own choices. Which leaves us with only one feasible option - God knew from the beginning of time how these particular men (and women) would respond to the Gospel and how they would handle the responsibility of the task given them. After all, they would not only have to faithfully proclaim the kingdom message but, in doing so, would have to endure numerous trials and tribulations to the point of martyrdom.

In other words, God knows every detail about a persons character so thoroughly that He can appoint people to certain positions knowing exactly how they will handle the assignment. Not only did God set Paul apart before he was even born (Galatians 1:15) but told Jeremiah,

    Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."  (Jeremiah 1:5 NASB)

If Open Theism is true, we are being asked to believe that while God may have made some general plans, He has no idea how exactly the future will unfold because He does not know what humans will do and we would have to accept that He is not the all-knowing, all-powerful God depicted in the Bible. How can we put our full trust and confidence in a God who constantly has to adjust His plans according to what humans do.

This also means that we can have no real idea (hence cannot prepare for) the End Of Days, the Second Coming of Christ, and the promised Kingdom of God. After all, humans as free agents might make decisions that move history in a direction that God did not foresee. Certainly we would not be able to rely on there being a precise time frame for these events.

The antichrist? Lets not worry about him. After all, he too is a free agent who might just decide that Christianity is the way to go, convert and start church planting. Which means that since it is the persecution of Christians by the antichrist that triggers the beginning of God's Seven Trumpet judgment, none of it may happen at all. No tribulation, no resurrection of believers, no Second Advent - No nothing but this same old world that is gradually getting a lot worse. 

What then, are to base our hope on?

See The Antichrist

The End of The Age
In order to understand exactly what is in store for this planet and its inhabitants, we need to turn to Revelation, the last book of the Bible in which, the horrendous conditions in the last days are described by the metaphorical images of Seals, Trumpets and Bowls. Some say they run concurrently, while others are of the opinion that they are different and succeeding series of judgments. While neither point of view is correct, there is little doubt that conditions get progressively worse, and more devastating, as the end times progress.

The Final Question

then is how God's foreknowledge and mankind's free work together.

Quite honestly, we have absolutely no idea. 

In the final analysis, regardless of how intelligent the scholarship and how many seven syllable words are used in the philosophical discussion, it brings the finite mind of man no closer to understanding this particular attribute of God. God's foreknowledge is as incomprehensible as God Himself.

Actually our only experience of life is in a three dimensional world which makes quite a few of God's characteristics impossible to really grasp. For example, how can we possibly understand omnipresence. ow can God possibly be everywhere at one time. How does He hear every one of the countless prayers sent up to Him everyday?

The truth is we understand none of these things. Perhaps at some point we shall  see and comprehend more than we do now, but until that day comes what we do know is that, as the Bible tells us, our decisions and individual choices are ours to make.

See Choose Life That You May Live

 And that however it works, the fact that God knows in advance what path we will choose does not in any way rob us of personal freedom.

Footnote I
Luke 2:32 says Christ is spoken of as 'a light of revelation to the Gentiles'
Isaiah 42:6 says "I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations"

Acts 26:18 says Christ Paul says he was sent to the Gentiles to " open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God... "
Isaiah 42:6-7 says "I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, To open blind eyes,..."

In Matthew 3:17, God says of the Redeemer, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’
Isaiah 42:1 says, My chosen one in whom My soul delights

Finally Matthew 2:17-21 expressly and directly applies the passage to the Lord Jesus, and says that it was fulfilled in him. {PLACE IN TEXT}

Footnote II
The fact that only Mark mentions that the rooster would crow twice is hardly surprising, because Mark often added little things that no one else mentioned. Mark himself wasn't a disciple therefore he was either physically present on some of the occasions or was recounting what was told him by someone who was. And that someone had a very good memory and a knack for detail. (Details) {PLACE IN TEXT}

End Notes
[01] Gregory Boyd. God of the Possible. Baker Books; unknown edition (May 1, 2000). Page 11
[02] Clark H. Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger. The Openness of God. Publisher: IVP Academic (October 22, 1994). Pg 51
[03] ibid. Pg 52
[04] The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. Clark H. Pinnock (Author), Richard Rice (Author), John Sanders (Author), & 2 more. Publisher : IVP Academic; 0 edition (September 22, 1994) Pg. 54
[05] Destruction of Tyre: A detailed look at Ezekiel 26:1-21 and some faulty objections that skeptics have.
[06] Clark Pinnock. Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness. Publisher: Wipf and Stock (October 1, 2019) Page 51
[07] Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews — Book X. Ch. 6:3. https://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-10.html#S7.1
[08] What Unfulfilled Prophesies Say About the Open View
[09] ibid.


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