Who Has Affirmed Dynamic Omniscience and the Open Future in History?

Updated February 2016

[see the bibliography by John Sanders for documentation of contemporary figures]

Briefly, the position is that God has exhaustive knowledge of the past and the present and knows as possibilities and probabilities those events which might happen in the future. God cannot know as definite what we will do unless God destroys the very freedom God granted us. Vincent Brümmer writes: “God knows everything which it is logically possible to know. But God knows all things as they are, and not as they are not. Thus he knows the future as future (and not as present, which it is not). He knows the possible as possible (and not as actual, which it is not).”[1] God does not possess exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) of future contingent events.

The dynamic omniscience view was held by a smattering of people until the nineteenth century when serious scholarship begins to be published on it and it has now become a widely held view by biblical scholars, philosophers of religion, and theologians from a wide range of denominational and theological traditions.

Aristotle put forth the problem of the truth value of future contingent propositions (De Interprtatione 9), claiming that they could be neither true nor false. There were questions about how to interpret Aristotle’s remarks which led to lively debate among those who discussed this question. The issues involved in divine foreknowledge were much discussed by philosophers after Aristotle.

The dynamic omniscience view was affirmed by several non-Christian writers such as Cicero (first century B.C.E.) Alexander of Aphrodisias (second century C.E.) and Porphyry (third century).[2]  Cicero  argued that if God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF) then humans cannot have libertarian freedom so Cicero denied EDF.[3]

For the reasons used to support belief in an exhaustively definite future in both secular Greco-Roman thought and in Christianity see “Motivations for Ascribing Foreknowledge to God” by Gregory Boyd on this website.

Commenting on the work of Aristotle, Boethius and several medieval theologians held that statements about the future lack truth value yet they also held that God has exhaustive definite foreknowledge (EDF).[4] Also, Boethius (see Consolations, 5.4), Augustine (City of God, 5.9.37-9), Bonaventure and Aquinas are familiar with the dynamic omniscience position of Cicero (see W. Craig, Problem of Divine Forekowledge, 59). Boethius also knows about Alexander of Aphrodisias who produced an argument similar to Cicero’s. Boethius and other Christians were more concerned to deflect the charge that Christianity implied fatalism rather than about Aristotle’s question regarding the truth value of future propositions. It was charged that if the God of the Bible predicts some future events, then the future must be determined.

These authors produce an array of solutions to the problem and those after them critique these answers and either modify them or offer new proposals. Most seem aware of the dynamic omniscience view but think that it either (1) fails to explain biblical predictions or (2) would imply that God has changing knowledge which would undermine their understanding of divine immutability. The great theologian Aquinas (thirteen century) argues that if God is temporal (experiences changes of any kind) then the only options are determinism or dynamic omniscience. He says that a temporal God can only have EDF (exhaustive definite foreknowledge) if all is determined from prior causes. This is why he rejects the simple foreknowledge view because he thinks it removes human freedom. Another factor, for Aquinas, is that “the future does not exist and is therefore not knowable in itself” because it lacks being (Summa Theologica For Aquinas, the simple foreknowledge view of the church fathers (the same view what will become dominant in Arminian and Wesleyan circles) is deterministic. He believes that if God is temporal and humans have freedom then one should affirm the dynamic omniscience view. However, Thomas argues that since God is timelessness God can know an exhaustive definite future without it being determined. The important point here is that Aquinas thought the dynamic omniscience view was a legitimate option and he thought it should be affirmed if God is temporal and humans are free.

After Boethius, the mighty river of EDF followed the channel of divine timelessness though there were a few other channels such as divine determinism. However, in recent Christian philosophy the flow in the channel of timelessness has been seriously reduced in favor of dynamic omniscience and middle knowledge

The earliest Christian proponent thus far found is Calcidius (late fourth century).[5] He wrote several books one of which is against fatalism and determinism (this work did not become well known until the middle ages). In it he says that since God knows reality as it is he knows necessary truths necessarily and future contingent truths contingently.[6]  Some Medieval Christian writers anticipate and seem to affirm an open future: Peter Auriol (thirteenth century) and Peter de Rivo (fifteenth century).

Some Islamic scholars affirmed dynamic omniscience: some in the Qadarite school (eighth century) and Abd al-Jabbar, an important figure of the Mu’tazilite school (tenth century).[7] In Judaism the view has been widely held. God’s statement to Abraham “Now I know that you fear me” (Gen 22:12) was much discussed by Medieval Jewish theologians, a number of whom affirmed dynamic omniscience and the open future including the renowned Ibn Ezra in the twelfth century and Gersonides (Levi ben Gerson) in the fourteenth.[8]

John Miley claims that some of the Remonstrants (Dutch followers of Arminius) advocated it in the sixteenth century.[9] The Anabaptist Fausto Socinus affirmed it though he, unfortunately, also denied many traditional Christian beliefs such as the deity of Christ and the trinity.[10]  If one tries to discredit open theism because a heretic affirmed the same view of omniscience then should the Reformation be discredited because this same heretic affirmed several of the key tenets of Calvin?

In the early eighteenth century, Samuel Fancourt published several works defending the dynamic omniscience view including Liberty, Grace and Prescience and latter, in 1730, What Will Be Must Be. He argues that the issue is not about the scope of God’s knowledge but about the nature of reality: are contingencies real or not? Andrew Ramsay (1748) put forth a variant of this position, claiming that though the future is knowable and so God could know it, God has chosen not to exercise this ability in order to preserve human freedom. John Wesley (1785) reprinted Ramsay’s material on this in Wesley’s Arminian Magazine.[11]

The position became much discussed in Methodism from the latter eighteenth into the twentieth century.[12] In the early nineteenth century the well known Methodist biblical commentator, Adam Clarke (1831), defended it as did the well-known circuit preacher Billy Hibbard (1843).[13] Hibbard says that he learned of the view from an article in a Methodist magazine but he develops the position much more than the Methodists before him. In the latter nineteenth century Lorenzo D. McCabe, a Methodist theologian, wrote two large, detailed works covering every biblical text relevant to foreknowledge (for example, Peter’s denial) as well as numerous theological arguments.[14] According to McCabe, dynamic omniscience was widely affirmed by British and German theologians of his day and he cites other Methodists who held the view. In America, McCabe’s publications sparked a significant discussion in Methodist circles that lasted several decades.[15] John Miley, an influential Methodist and contemporary of McCabe, speaks highly of McCabe’s work in his Systematic Theology (which was widely used well past the middle of the twentieth century). Though Miley affirmed prescience (foreknowledge) he recognizes a key problem that he does not know how to answer: How can God interact with us in reciprocal relationships if God has prescience? He says that if belief in an interactive God is contradictory to prescience then he will give up prescience. He goes on to say that belief in dynamic omniscience would not undermine any vital Methodist doctrines and would, in fact, free Methodism from the perplexity of divine foreknowledge and human freedom.[16]

Quite a number of articles and books affirming open theism from people in various denominations appeared in the nineteenth century (see the “Open Theism Timeline” chart on the website by Tom Lukashow). These folks affirmed traditional Christian orthodoxy and were generally evangelical in orientation. Edward Pearson (1811). Verax (1818), James Bromley (1820), John Briggs (1825), James Jones (two books 1828, 1829), Onesimus (1828), John Bonsall (1830), Richard Dillon (1834), Robert Bartley (1839), Joseph Barken (1846), William Robinson (1866), James Morison (1867), William Taylor (1868), Hans Martinsen (1874), J. P. LaCroix (1876), J. J. Smith (1885), Thomas Crompton (1879), Isaiah Kephart (1883), B. F. White (1884), J. J. Miles (1885), Joseph Lee (1889), J. S. Brecinridge (1890), W. G. Williams (1891), H. C. Burr (1893), William Major (1894), S. Hubbard (1894), J. Wallace Webb (1896), D. W. Simon (1898), and H. J. Zelley (1900).

In the mid nineteenth century, the great German theologian, Isaak Dorner, argued that “the classical doctrine of immutability” is inconsistent with Scripture, sound reason, and spiritual living because it rules out reciprocal relations between God and creatures. He argues for dynamic omniscience saying that a consistent view of God working with us in history requires that God knows future free acts of creatures as possibilities, not actualities.[17]

In 1890 Joel S. Hayes published The Foreknowledge of God, a lengthy volume examining the scriptural evidence and theological arguments for foreknowledge and concluded that dynamic omniscience was a superior explanation.[18]  In the opening chapter, he writesThe design of this treatise is to deny and disprove the commonly received doctrine that God, from all eternity, foreknew whatsoever has come to pass. This doctrine, it seems to me, is contrary to reason and Scripture, and is in the highest degree dishonoring to the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity.” T. W. Brents of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement dedicated a chapter of his “biblical” theology to the defense of dynamic omniscience. His book was influential in the Churches of Christ for many decades.[19]

In the latter nineteenth century many people defended the view including Rowland G. Hazard and the Catholic writer Jules Lequyer.[20] Proponents also include less orthodox thinkers such as Gustave. T. Fechner, Otto Pfleiderer, William James, and Edgar S. Brightman.[21]

Theologians include Jürgen Moltmann, Paul Fides, and Michael Welker.[22] Contemporary Dutch Reformed theologians such as Vincent Brümmer, Hendrikus Berkhof and Adrio König affirm it as do the American Reformed thinkers Nicholas Wolterstorff and Harry Boer.[23] Other theologians include Thomas Finger (Mennonite), W. Norris Clarke and John Coburn (both Roman Catholic), Brian Hebblethwaite, Robert Ellis, Kenneth Archer (Pentecostal) Barry Callen (Church of God), and German theologian Heinzpeter Hempelmann.[24] In the Nazarene tradition Tom Oord informs me that the following scholars affirm it: Dennis Bratcher, Timothy Crutcher, Michael Lodahl, George Lyons, Mark Mann, Brint Montgomery, and Thomas Jay Oord. Major Jones claims that the position is well known in the African-American tradition.[25]

The dynamic omniscience view is exceedingly popular among analytic philosophers who affirm orthodox Christianity. Quite a number of the luminaries among Christian philosophers assert it: Richard Swinburne (Oxford), William Hasker, David Basinger, Peter Van Inwagen (Notre Dame), J. R. Lucas, Peter Geach, Richard Purtill, A. N. Prior, and Keith Ward.[26]  It is also affirmed by Nicholas Wolterstorff (formerly of Calvin and Yale) and Vincent Brümmer (Dutch Reformed).[27] Several philosophers contributed to a book on open theism and science: Dean Zimmerman, Robin Collins, Alan Rhoda, David Woodruff, and Jeffrey Koperski.[28]  John Davenport argues for open theism from Kierkegaard and Levinas.[29] Timothy O’Connor (Indiana University) and Frank Kirkpatrick also affirm the openness model.[30] Though there remain defenders of both theological determinism and simple foreknowledge, it seems that the majority of Christian philosophers who publish on the subject today believe that the main options are middle knowledge and dynamic omniscience.

Acclaimed physicist and theologian, John Polkinghorne, holds it as does mathematician D. J. Barholomew and physicist Arthur Peacocke.[31]

For those interested in biblical support for the dynamic omniscience view, the most important work is by Hebrew Bible scholar, Terrence Fretheim, who has over a dozen publications that document in detail the biblical support for this view of omniscience.[32] John Goldingay, professor of Old Testament at Fuller Seminary, has defended it in his Old Testament Theology.[33] The work of Boyd and Sanders also contains biblical support.  Old Testament scholar Karen Winslow affirms it.

A number of theologians, philosophers and writers have affirmed the position. Clark Pinnock, Gregory Boyd, Richard Rice, and John Sanders have produced several volumes on the topic.[34] Other notable scholars include Dallas Willard, Gabriel Fackre, William Abraham, Paul Borgman, Henry Knight III, Alan Padgett, Tom Oord, Nels Ferre, and Peter Wagner.[35] Researchers and popular writers include Michael Saia, William Pratney, H. Roy Elseth, Gordon C. Olson, Madelline L’Engle, and Brother Andrew.[36]

The position is affirmed by many YWAM leaders and leaders of the Ichthus church movement in England. Many Pentecostals are supporting it.[37] Some leaders in a couple of denominations have spoken in favor of it: the Evangelical Covenant Church and Independent Christian Churches. The organization, Evangelical Educational Ministries, publishes copies of the works of L. D. McCabe and Gordon Olson: http://www.eeminc.org/prodserv.html.

In sum, the dynamic omniscience view was held by a smattering of people until the nineteenth century when serious scholarship begins to be published on it.[38] In the latter twentieth century the number of proponents and the amount of quality works setting forth the position has grown exponentially. In part, the view is increasing in popularity in the freewill tradition due to its ability to better explain the biblical texts and give greater intellectual coherence as to how God relates to us.

[1] Brümmer, What Are We Doing When We Pray? A Philosophical Inquiry (London: SCP, 1984), p. 44.

[2] Cicero, De Divinatione (On Divination), 2.5-8. See my “Historical Considerations,” p. 68. On Alexander see R. T. Wallis “Divine Omniscience in Plotinus, Proclus, and Aquinas” in H. J. Blumenthal and R. A. Markus eds. Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought (London: Variorum Pub., 1981), pp. 223-5 and J. Den Boeft, Calcidius On Fate: His Doctrines and Sources (Leiden: Brill, 1970), p. 54. On Porphyry see ibid., p. 56.

[3] Amonius came close in that he distinguished between definite and indefinite truths about the future. However, he seems to claim that the indefinite truths are only so for humans. Hence, they are indefinite only in an epistemic sense, not ontologically. Greg Boyd has suggested to me that Proclus emphasized the idea that God’s knowledge must be defined by the nature of divinity rather than by the nature of what is known (this allows God to know future contingents as necessities). Those after him, such as Augustine, presume that divinity must have exhaustive definite foreknowledge. Also, they assume that if one denies exhaustive definite foreknowledge then bivalence is denied. But there are ways to affirm bivalence without affirming exhaustive definite foreknowledge (see my The God Who Risks, revised edition, pages 335-6 note 133).

[4] Gregory Boyd argues that both non-Christian and Christian thinkers on this issue were shaped by widely held assumptions about the nature of truth and divination. See his “Two Ancient (and Modern) Motivations for Ascribing Exhaustive Definite Foreknowledge to God: A Historic Overview and Critical Assessment.” Religious Studies 45 (2009): 1-19.

[5] Erickson, What Does God Know?, pp. 111-2, claims that Celsus, a Greek philosophical critic of Christianity, and the Christian heretic Marcion held to dynamic omniscience. This is not the case, however. Erickson cites Origen’s book, Against Celsus, 2.20, to prove that Celus rejected foreknowledge. In this text Celsus critiques what he considers to be an incoherence in Christian teaching. He argues that Jesus was not able to turn Judas and Peter from their wicked acts by forecasting what they were about to do. Surely, a true God could accomplish that. Elsewhere Celsus asks why God became a human. “Does he want to know what is going on among men? If he does’t know, then he does not know everything. If he does know, why does he not simply correct men by his divine power?” In Celsus on the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians, R. Joseph Hoffmann trans. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 76. His point is that a true God would both know and be in control. Celsus believes in providence, but not the sort that interacts with creation. Rather, God orders the universe for the good of the whole (Celsus, p. 85). He says (p. 103) that a true God is strongly immutable in all respects (that would include no change in knowledge), impassible (no sorrow or change of mind as the Christians hold), and is anonymous, beyond predication and human knowing. Celsus was a Middle Platonist for whom God was beyond being. For him, the Christian assertions regarding God’s involvement in history are grossly anthropomorphic. He rejects Origen’s notion that God “sees ahead” what we will do and then takes appropriate action not because he rejects foreknowledge, as Erickson claims, but because that way of thinking is beneath the grandeur of God. As for Marcion, Erickson cites Tertullian’s Five Books Against Marcion (2.5). Tertullian says that Marcion raised the traditional problem of evil: Can God be good, omnipotent and omniscient if evil exists? Tertullian then proceeds to argue that God is indeed completely good, prescient, and all powerful even though evil exists due to the freewill of humans. God, prior to creation, saw that humans would sin and so God made preparations in response. In this and the following chapters Tertullian argues against Marcion’s claim that God cannot be involved in the world the way the Old Testament describes. Marcion said that Yahweh (the God of the Jews) was a screwed up deity who was either capricious or lacked foreknowledge (2.23). For Marcion, a true God has prescience but Yahweh lacks it. Tertullian seeks to explain biblical texts where God is said to change his mind in a way that avoids Marcion’s criticism and thus affirm that Yahweh is the true God. Also, note that the Gnostic text, The Testimony of Truth, argues that the God of the Old Testament lacks foreknowledge and so cannot be fully divine. The Nag Hammadi Library, ed. James Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1978), p. 412.

[6] See Boeft, Calcidius, pp. 52-6. Calcidius’ works did not become well known until the twelfth century.

[7] See Michael Lodahl, “The (Brief) Openness Debate in Islamic Theology” in Thomas J. Oord ed., Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science (Pickwick, 2009), 55, 59.

[8] On Ibn Ezra see his Commentary on Genesis 22:1 (I am grateful to Marc Brettler for his translation). On Gersonides see Feldman, Seymour. “The Binding of Isaac: A Test-Case of Divine Foreknowledge.” Ed. Tamar Rudavsky. Divine Omniscience and Omnipotence in Medieval Philosophy: Islamic, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives (Boston: D. Reidel, 1985), p. 114. See also, Richard Purtill, “Foreknowledge and Fatalism” Religious Studies 10 (1974): 319.

[9] Miley, Systematic Theology (New York: Eaton & Mains, 1892), vol. 1 p. 181.

[10] On Socinus see Charles Hartshorne and William Reese, eds. Philosophers Speak of God (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 225-227; and Joshua Toulmin, Memoirs of the Life, Character, Sentiments and Writings of Faustus Socinus (London: J. Brown, 1777), pp. 230-1. Some evangelical critics of open theism attempt to smear us by calling our view “Socinianism.” There is no historical linkage between open theists and Socinus. A more likely historical link is with McCabe.

[11] Andrew Ramsay, The Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1748).

[12] See Randy Maddox “Seeking a Response-able God: The Wesleyan Tradition and Process Theology” Bryan Stone and Thomas Oord eds., Thy Nature and Thy Name is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologians in Dialogue (Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), pp. 111-142.

[13] Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible with a Commentary and Critical Notes (London: J & T. Clarke, 1810), his comment on Acts 2:47 is in his Christian Theology, Arranged, with A Life of the Author by Samuel Dunn, (New York: Lane and Scott, 1885), 69-74; and “Some Observations on the Being and Providence of God,” in Discourses on Various Subjects Relative to the Being and Attributes of God, and His Works in Creation, Providence, and Grace, (New York:  B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1832), 298. In his survey, Erickson fails to mention any of these passages from Clarke and so erroneously concludes that Clarke did not affirm dynamic omniscience. See Maddox, “Seeking a Respond-able God,” for a discussion of the controversy surrounding Clarke’s views in Methodism. Billy Hibbard, Memoirs of the Life and Travels of B. Hibbard, second edition (New York: Pierchy & Reed, 1843), pp. 373-5. Erickson chides open theists for mentioning little known figures such as Hibbard. Erickson scoffs that he was unable to locate the book. I had no trouble finding it. The point in listing these people is to show that there has been a minority tradition among even orthodox Christians on this topic.

[14] McCabe, Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity (New York: Phillips and Hunt, 1882) and The Foreknowledge of God (Cincinnati: Cranston and Stowe, 1887). For reprints of these works see http://www.eeminc.org/prodserv.html).  For a summary of McCabe’s arguments see William McGuire King, “God’s Nescience of Future Contingents: A Nineteenth-Century Theory,” Process Studies 9 (Fall, 1979): 105-115 and Tiessen, David Alstad. “The Openness of Model of God: An Evangelical Paradigm in Light of Its Nineteenth-Century Wesleyan Precedent.” Didaskalia (Spring, 2000):77-101. The most thorough study of McCabe and the discussion in latter nineteenth Methodism is the, as of yet, unpublished paper by George Porter, “Things That May Be Only? Lorenzo Dow McCabe and Some Neglected Nineteenth Century Roots of Open Theism in North America” (available online: http://www.opentheism.info/pages/information/porter/things_only.php

McCabe says that Isaak Dorner wrote him a letter affirming McCabe’s thesis. Divine Nescience, p. 29.

[15] See Maddox, “Seeking a Respond-able God.”

[16] See his Systematic Theology, vol. 1 pp. 180-193.

[17] Dorner, Divine Immutability: A Critical Reconsideration, Robert Williams and Claude Welch trans. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), pp. 149-153. Dorner also set forth this position in several other publications. Lengthy quotes from several of Dorner’s other publications appear in Lornzo McCabe, Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity (New York: Phillips and Hunt, 1882), pp. 27-29, 285-7.

[18] Joel S. Hayes, The Foreknowledge of God (Nashville: Publishing House of the M[ethodist] E[piscopal] Church, South, 1890).

[19] T. W. Brents, The Gospel Plan of Salvation first edition (Cincinnati: Chase & Hall, 1874), pp. 92-108.

[20] Rowland G. Hazard, Freedom of Mind in Willing (New York: Appleton, 1865), chapter 12. On Jules Lequyer (name is sometimes spelled differently) see Donald Wayne Viney, “Jules Lequyer and the Openness of God,” Faith and Philosophy 14, no. 2 (April, 1997): 212-235 and Hartshorne and Reese, Philosophers Speak of God, pp. 227-230.

[21] See Hartshorne and Reese, Philosophers Speak of God, for Fechner (243-254), Pfleiderer (269-270), James (335-350), and Brightman (358-362). Brightman, The Problem of God (New York: Abingdon, 1930), pp. 101-3. Brightman belonged to the school of thought known as “Boston personalism,” which tended to affirm dynamic omniscience.

 [22] On these scholars see their chapters in The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis, John Polkinghorne ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001). Though most of the contributors in this volume endorse dynamic omniscience I have not listed those from a process theology persuasion. Fiddes’, The Creative Suffering of God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) is a first rate work discussing passibility and conditionality in God.

[23]Brümmer, What Are We Doing When We Pray?, pp. 43-5; Berkhof, Christian Faith, trans. Sierd Woudstra (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1979); König, Here Am I (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982); Wolterstorff, “Unqualified Divine Temporality,” Gregory Ganssle ed. God & Time: Four Views (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press), p. 188; and Boer, An Ember Still Glowing (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990).

[24] Finger, Christian Theology: An Eschatological Approach, 2 vols. (Scottsdale, PA: Herald, 1989), 2.481-508; Hebblethwaite, “Some Reflections on Predestination, Providence and Divine Foreknowledge,” Religious Studies 15.4 (Dec. 1979): 433-448; Clarke, God Knowable and Unknowable, p. 65; Coburn, Freewill, Predestination and Determinism  (Marquette University Press, 2007), 124-142; Ellis, Answering God: Towards a Theology of Intercession (Waynesboro, Ga.: Paternoster, 2005), pp. 187-9; Archer, “Open Theism View: Prayer Changes Things,” The Pneuma Review 5.2 (Spring 2002): 32-53; Callen, Discerning the Divine :God in Christian Theology, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004). Though Callen does not fully endorse the view in his book, he has informed in me in a letter that he does affirm it. Heinzpeter Hempelmann, Wir haben den Horizont weggewischt Die Herausforderung: Postmoderner Wahrheitspluralismus und christliches Wahrheitszeugnis (Wuppertal 2008).  Albert Truesdale speaks approvingly of the view though it is not clear if he himself affirms it. See his “The Eternal, Personal, Creative God,” Charles Carter ed., A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology: Biblical, Systematic and Practical (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1983), 1.126.

[25] Jones, The Color of God: The Concept of God in Afro‑American Thought, (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), p. 95.

     [26]Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977); Hasker has published an enormous amount on the subject, see Providence, Evil and the Openness of God (New York: Routledge, 2004) and God, Time, and Knowledge (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989); Hasker and Basinger have chapters in The Openness of God; Basinger has collected a number of his essays in The Case for Freewill Theism: A Philosophical Assessment (Downers Grove, Ill.: 1996); Van Inwagen, “The Place of Chance in a World Sustained by God.” Ed. Thomas Morris. Divine and Human Action: Essays in the Metaphysics of Theism. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988); A. N. Prior (“The Formalities of Omniscience,” Philosophy 32 (1962), pp. 119-29); J. R. Lucas (The Freedom of the Will, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, and The Future:  An Essay on God, Temporality, and Truth, London:  Basil Blackwell, 1989); Peter Geach (Providence and Evil, Cam­bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977); Richard Purtill (“Fatalism and the Omnitemporality of Truth,” Faith and Philosophy 5 (1988), pp. 185-192); and Keith Ward Divine Action (San Francisco: Torch, 1991). Frederick Sontag also affirms the view though he is significantly less orthodox than the other philosophers in this list. See his “Does Omnipotence Necessarily Entail Omniscience? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34 (1991): 505-8.

[27] Wolterstorff, see his essay in God & Time: Four Views, p. 188 and his “God Everlasting.” Brümmer see Speaking of a Personal God  (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and What are We Doing When We Pray? A Philosophical Inquiry (London: SCM, 1984).

[28] Each of these persons has an essay in God In an Open Universe: Science, Metaphysics, and Open Theism, eds. William Hasker, Thomas Jay Oord, and Dean Zimmerman (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011).

[29] Davenport, John. “A New Existential Model of God: A Synthesis of Themes from Kierkegaard, Buber, Levinas, and Open Theism,” in J. Diller and A. Kasher (eds.)                 Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities (Springer, 2013).

[30] Timothy O’Connor, Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012). Frank Kirkpatrick, Together Bound (Oxford, 1994).

[31]Polkinghorne, Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Realilty (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 108-9; Barholomew, God of Chance (London: SCM, 1984), chap. 7.

[32] Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation. (Abindon, 2005), The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Fortress, 1984), The Book of Genesis in The New Interpreter’s Bible (Abingdon, 1994), Exodus (John Knox, 1991), “Divine Foreknowledge, Divine Constancy, and the Rejection of Saul’s Kingship.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 47, no. 4 (Oct. 1985): 595-602, “The Repentance of God: A Key to Evaluating Old Testament God-Talk.” Horizons in Biblical Theology 10, no. 1 (June 1988): 47-70, and “The Repentance of God: A Study of Jeremiah 18:7-10. Hebrew Annual Review  11 (1987): 81-92.

[33] See vol. 1 pages 136-8, 60-4, 168 and 98.

[34] Their key works are: Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2001); The Openness of God; Boyd, God of the Possible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2000) and God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Rice, God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Freewill (Eugene, Ore.: WipfandStock, 2005), Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, revised ed. (IVP, 2007).

[35] Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), pp. 244-253. Willard does not elaborate on whether he means (1) that God could have determined all future events (no libertarian freedom) and thus had exhaustive foreknowledge of them (what proponents of dynamic omniscience believe) or (2) that God could know the future actions of creatures with libertarian freedom but somehow chooses not to.  Fackre, The Christian Story, rev. ed. in three volumes (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1984), 1.257-8; Abraham, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1985); Borgman, Genesis the Story We’ve Never Heard (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001); Knight, A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World (Nashville: Abingdon, 1997), pp. 168-179; Padget, God, Eternity and the Nature of Time, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), Nels Ferre, The Christian Understanding of God (Harper, 1951); and Tom Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God (IVP, 2015) .

[36] Saia, Does God Know the Future? A Biblical Investigation of Foreknowledge and Free Will  (Fairfax, Virginia: Xulon Press, 2002); Pratney, The Nature and Character of God (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998); Elseth, Did God Know?: A Study of the Nature of God (St. Paul, Calvary United Church, 1977); Gordon Olson, The Foreknowledge of God and The Omniscience of the Godhead  (Arlington Heights, IL: The Bible Research Corporation); L’Engle, Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation (28-30). Brother Andrew And God Changed His Mind (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Chosen Books, 1999).

[37] See the Pentecostal, Kenneth J. Archer, “Open Theism View: ‘Prayer Changes Things’,” The Pneuma Review vol. 5 no. 2 (Spring 2002), 32-53).

[38] Millard Erickson (What Does God Know? p. 131) claims that the dynamic omniscience view stems from “the tradition of Celsus, Marcion and Socinus” (a non Christian and two heretics) rather than from the “orthodox” tradition. However, Erickson misreads Celsus and Marcion since they did not affirm dynamic omniscience. Even if they did, however, the position could just as well stem from the tradition of Cicero, Calcidius, and McCabe (a respected non Christian and two orthodox Christians). Several articles have been written giving evidence that McCabe is the main historical source for the contemporary openness movement (see the paper by George Porter on this website’s Information page). The dynamic omniscience view is a minority tradition among orthodox Christians and is widely accepted today. It is disappointing that Erickson fails to mention the contemporary theologians and philosophers cited above and that in his chapters on the biblical material fails to engage the detailed biblical studies of Terence Fretheim. Instead of dealing with the evidence Fretheim amasses Erickson simply casts aspersions on Fretheim’s credibility. He casts proponents of dynamic omniscience alongside “heretics” and “liberals” in order to claim they are outside “the mainstream of orthodox Christian thought” (131). Does he really want to say this about people such as Dallas Willard, Jürgen Moltmann, John Polkinghorne, Peter Van Inwagen and Barry Callen? Why does he not mention these and other proponents of dynamic omniscience? Does he want to make it seem that only a few people, from a suspect heritage, affirm it? Erickson ignores the connections between open theism and the freewill tradition. For him, “the God of traditional theism” is the Calvinist God who exercises meticulous control. Hence, “traditional Christian theism” means the no risk tradition of Augustine and Calvin. That is indeed a tradition in Christian thought but so is the older freewill tradition.

John Sanders

John E. Sanders is an American theologian who is a professor of religious studies at Hendrix College. He has published on four main topics: (1) open theism, (2) Christian views on the salvation of non-Christians, (3) Christian views on the nature of hell, and (4) applying cognitive linguistics to theology.

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