Classical theism vs. open theism = God's knowledge vs. God's wisdom

squirrelyguy

Active member
It seems to me that whereas classical theism has a higher view of God's knowledge, open theism has a higher view of God's wisdom. Therefore, it isn't helpful to try and resolve the debate by arguing over who has the higher view of God. The question is, how are we made to think about God based on how He has revealed Himself in the Bible?

I recently heard Greg Boyd give an illustration on this that I find deeply profound. A world chess champion can supposedly anticipate up to 30 moves ahead of his opponent, whereas the novice can only anticipate 3 moves ahead. This is why the champion will always beat the novice. In a similar way; because God is infinitely wise, He was able to anticipate every possible consequence in which His creation would go from the beginning; therefore, He didn't need to ordain or even foresee the future in order to be certain that His ultimate purposes would prevail. He was able to create a world populated with free agents without concern that they might sometimes use their free will to thwart His will, since He anticipated every possible outcome to the trillionth power and can therefore have a response ready.

To return to the chess illustration; let's suppose that you're playing God in chess (and this is part of Boyd's illustration). After the first few moves, God might say to you "Within 17 moves, you'll be checkmated." But you can't see it...in fact, you think you've started off with the advantage. Then after you make another move, God says "Now in no more than 6 moves, and perhaps in as few as 3 moves, you'll be checkmated." But you still don't see it! So it is with our role as free agents in God's creation. We might be able to occasionally do things that God did not know would happen*, but because He perfectly knows all future possibilities, He is always able to have a response ready that keeps the creation moving towards His ultimate ends.

Now let's suppose that while playing this chess game, Gabriel the angel comes to God (again, this is Boyd's illustration) and says something like this: "Lord, I have this crystal ball. I can tell you exactly what moves he will make next." Would God gain anything by having this knowledge? Would it increase His advantage? If He already perfectly anticipates all of the possible moves you could make, and therefore has a corresponding move prepared, why would He gain anything by knowing exactly what you will do in advance? In truth, if God gained any advantage by this foreknowledge then it would imply He has limited intelligence.

I could continue on and on, but I will stop here and give everyone the opportunity to offer their thoughts.

* When I say this, I am assuming that anything God doesn't know in advance is only due to His voluntary self-limitation. I do not believe (as some argue), that the future is by definition unknowable even to God. The question of why God would voluntarily limit His own foreknowledge is a separate question that is beyond the scope of this post.
 

HealTheLand

Active member
one thing to consider is .... why do/ are people so hung up on this to begin with? since we are told by the Bible that we see darkly, and since common sense can tell us such as well... could it be, that people, in the darkness of their thinking... are thinking -- very -- very -- dim. not full of Light.....

in order to think full of Light -- thy eye must be -- Single. not divided. but Most people are probably Not full of Light -- and not yet perfect -- Single ... and so they see In Part, not with full Light (or enough to figure this all out) not like Christ would see. and not like God would see (how it really is, why it really all is, what it all is and means and how/ why/ what it all works together - in all it's many -- parts -- that we don't see -- don't know).
 

Stephen

Active member
I like the illustration.

God doesn't have to exhaustive knowledge of every move in advance, he just has to have wisdom and resources to use the existing situation and the available moves to bring about his desired outcome at his desired timing.
 

BlessedAnomaly

Well-known member
It seems to me that whereas classical theism has a higher view of God's knowledge, open theism has a higher view of God's wisdom. Therefore, it isn't helpful to try and resolve the debate by arguing over who has the higher view of God. The question is, how are we made to think about God based on how He has revealed Himself in the Bible?
There is a premise being begged here. Why would one assume that if God has highest knowledge (for lack of a better phrase) that the high knowledge God would not also possess highest wisdom?

I realize that in an extreme, such as a savant, one could possess very high knowledge of a single or few things, but a savant could not be said to have the highest wisdom. But here we are speaking of God. I think we would all agree that he has higher knowledge AND wisdom than any of his creation. After all, the scripture tells us that this is true.

I realize this "thesis statement" (as it were) is speaking of how one would focus on God. Are we looking at his knowledge or his wisdom. There is a presupposition in open theism that this wise God does not have infinite knowledge. Well as a non-open theist, I focus on a God that has infinite knowledge AND infinite wisdom. So you "thesis statement" doesn't fit me (or thousands of other Christians). It's a no-go from the start.
 

Stephen

Active member
I realize this "thesis statement" (as it were) is speaking of how one would focus on God. Are we looking at his knowledge or his wisdom. There is a presupposition in open theism that this wise God does not have infinite knowledge. Well as a non-open theist, I focus on a God that has infinite knowledge AND infinite wisdom. So you "thesis statement" doesn't fit me (or thousands of other Christians). It's a no-go from the start.

If God has infinite knowledge, then the amount of wisdom God posesses will be of no effect whatsoever as he knows everything that is going to happen. Things like skill, sound judgment, shrewdness, or the various other synonyms for wisdom will not matter one bit.

The classic view appears to leave God's wisdom as a near irrelvancy.
 

BlessedAnomaly

Well-known member
If God has infinite knowledge, then the amount of wisdom God posesses will be of no effect whatsoever as he knows everything that is going to happen. Things like skill, sound judgment, shrewdness, or the various other synonyms for wisdom will not matter one bit.

The classic view appears to leave God's wisdom as a near irrelvancy.
This isn't true. Wisdom would be of utmost importance. The difference that is sought here (presupposing into the argument) is whether the world goes forward with or without his influence. If God is ultimately influential in the path that the future takes, then wisdom is of utmost importance, and it feeds the infinite knowledge, not the other way around. But if God is that of a deist and he is simply sitting back watching the whole thing play out, then perhaps wisdom doesn't take a front seat.

But the bible defines a God who is intimately involved in your life. Because of this wisdom, along with knowledge, is vastly important. Thus the "thesis statement" is a no-go from the start. It is presupposing the open theist's position over other positions and it doesn't fit.
 

squirrelyguy

Active member
There is a premise being begged here. Why would one assume that if God has highest knowledge (for lack of a better phrase) that the high knowledge God would not also possess highest wisdom?
This is actually a very common assumption among those who critique open theism. It becomes apparent when they say things like "If God doesn't know the future choices that people will make, we have no assurance that He will ultimately prevail in the end."

One of the most often cited quotes that I've heard Calvinists use of R. C. Sproul is something about a "maverick molecule" that, if a single one exists, would threaten even the return of Christ. Thus, they reason, God has to not only have full knowledge of every future event but has to micromanage the future perfectly. This claim only works if you assume God has little or no wisdom. But I'm aware that one doesn't need to be a Calvinist to critique open theism.

Another quote which Boyd loves to cite in this regard is by Bruce Ware, in which he says something to this effect: "The God of open theism is a hand-wringing, nail biting deity, who can do nothing but hope for the best." This says a lot about Ware's view of God, but it doesn't really say anything about the open view of God. In Ware's view, God has to know all things in advance if He is to be assured that He can bring His ultimate purposes to pass. He is like the novice chess player who can only effectively anticipate up to 3 moves in advance, and needs the crystal ball due to the fact that He doesn't have enough wisdom to effectively anticipate every possible move that free agents could make.
 

BlessedAnomaly

Well-known member
This is actually a very common assumption among those who critique open theism. It becomes apparent when they say things like "If God doesn't know the future choices that people will make, we have no assurance that He will ultimately prevail in the end."
When did God's ultimate will come into our discussion? I simply posited that ultimate knowledge does not dismiss ultimate wisdom.

One of the most often cited quotes that I've heard Calvinists use of R. C. Sproul is something about a "maverick molecule" that, if a single one exists, would threaten even the return of Christ. Thus, they reason, God has to not only have full knowledge of every future event but has to micromanage the future perfectly. This claim only works if you assume God has little or no wisdom. But I'm aware that one doesn't need to be a Calvinist to critique open theism.
Awesome. I'm not Calvinist in the least.

Although your stated example in this case is not my belief, I'm curious why a God that "micromanage(s) the future perfectly" somehow lacks wisdom. This would seem to say the opposite: that he has perfect wisdom. Of course that's assuming he has the best interest out for his creation that he is micromanaging.

Another quote which Boyd loves to cite in this regard is by Bruce Ware, in which he says something to this effect: "The God of open theism is a hand-wringing, nail biting deity, who can do nothing but hope for the best." This says a lot about Ware's view of God, but it doesn't really say anything about the open view of God.
I have no clue who Boyd is, nor Ware. But given your quotes are accurate and not out of context, then I agree with your final sentence.

In Ware's view, God has to know all things in advance if He is to be assured that He can bring His ultimate purposes to pass. He is like the novice chess player who can only effectively anticipate up to 3 moves in advance, and needs the crystal ball due to the fact that He doesn't have enough wisdom to effectively anticipate every possible move that free agents could make.
Not one chess player in history is undefeated. Heuristics do not prove infallibility. And if God operates on a heuristic view of the world, then there could be a god who is beside or above him -- and scripture prohibits that; unless you wish to say that God is an egomaniac who exaggerates his own power and ability.

So what of the future of man--

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.​
All the days ordained for me​
were recorded in your scroll​
before one of them came into existence.​

How could the god of Open Theism ordain and record "all the days" of a person "before one of them came into existence"? The god of Open Theism is waiting with wonderous eyes to see what the future holds. Note, this does not say that God, in his infinite wisdom, tried to help me follow the right path -- a path that in my free will, I don't have to take. Or in his wisdom does God micromanage to make his wisdom right?
 

squirrelyguy

Active member
Although your stated example in this case is not my belief, I'm curious why a God that "micromanage(s) the future perfectly" somehow lacks wisdom. This would seem to say the opposite: that he has perfect wisdom. Of course that's assuming he has the best interest out for his creation that he is micromanaging.
What is wisdom anyway, and what is the use of having it (from God's perspective) over against simply having exhaustive knowledge + omnipotence?

I submit to you that the very fact that God is praised in Scripture for His wisdom suggests that He created a world in which free agents can do things which He, in His providence, has chosen not to know in advance. God doesn't need wisdom to manage our world unless He has populated it with free agents. If He has exhaustive knowledge of the future and omnipotence, He can just squash any resistance and force everything to run to His liking at all times. Wisdom is only needed if you need to outsmart your creatures, not if you merely intend to exercise control over them.
Not one chess player in history is undefeated.
But this is where the chess analogy falls short; not because God is capable of losing once in a while, but because human chess champions still have limited intelligence. God, being unlimited in intelligence, can perfectly anticipate all possible moves that the opposing chess player could make from the start of the game. All of them. I have no idea how many possible ways a chess game could go from start to finish, but I would imagine it's in the billions; God knows every one of those possibilities and can focus His full attention on each one to make sure He never lets Himself be put in the position to be checkmated.
Heuristics do not prove infallibility. And if God operates on a heuristic view of the world, then there could be a god who is beside or above him -- and scripture prohibits that; unless you wish to say that God is an egomaniac who exaggerates his own power and ability.
I see no reason to think that the open view of God requires the possibility that there is a god beside or above Him.
So what of the future of man--

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.​
All the days ordained for me​
were recorded in your scroll​
before one of them came into existence.​

How could the god of Open Theism ordain and record "all the days" of a person "before one of them came into existence"? The god of Open Theism is waiting with wonderous eyes to see what the future holds. Note, this does not say that God, in his infinite wisdom, tried to help me follow the right path -- a path that in my free will, I don't have to take. Or in his wisdom does God micromanage to make his wisdom right?
I see your prooftext, and I raise you an Isaiah 38:1-5. That's where the prophet is sent to Hezekiah to tell him "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." Then Hezekiah weeps and prays about it, and God sends Isaiah back to the king to tell him that God will add 15 years to his life as a result. Question: did God ordain the days of Hezekiah's life before he came into existence (Psalm 139:16), and did the number of those years include the 15 years that were added?

My point is that the biblical data on God's providence cuts both ways on this question, which is why there's a question to begin with. We wouldn't even be having this discussion if the Bible was clear on it.

One of the most helpful ways of organizing the biblical data on this question was suggested by Paul Helm (a Calvinist) in the book "Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views". Helm was responding to Boyd's essay on open theism and he proposed organizing the biblical data into what he called A-data (for "all things") and D-data (for "dialogue'). Verses such as the one you quoted would be placed under A-data, along with other verses that suggest God knows all things. Under the D-data would be verses in which God and humans are speaking to each other, and God is describing Himself. The D-data tends to be the verses which support open theism, and the A-data would be the verses that support a classical view of God. Helm then goes on to suggest that the A-data should be taken more literally and the D-data should be reinterpreted in light of that, but I would draw the exact opposite conclusion. Why not let the words God uses to describe Himself be the words we take most literally? Why not reinterpret the ways in which the men who wrote the Bible spoke about God in light of how God speaks about Himself in conversation?
 

BlessedAnomaly

Well-known member
What is wisdom anyway,
"The fear of the Lord." (Prov 9:10; Job 28:28)

and what is the use of having it (from God's perspective) over against simply having exhaustive knowledge + omnipotence?
What is the opposite of wisdom? And if God possessed this instead, what would that make him?

God, having wisdom, is capable of perfect justice, is capable of perfect love, is capable of perfect understanding.

And again, wisdom is not juxtaposed against knowledge. Wisdom and knowledge go hand in hand. We grow in wisdom through knowledge. We know how to acquire more knowledge through wisdom.

I submit to you that the very fact that God is praised in Scripture for His wisdom suggests that He created a world in which free agents can do things which He, in His providence, has chosen not to know in advance. God doesn't need wisdom to manage our world unless He has populated it with free agents.
Confusing: "He created a world in which free agents can do things..." vs "He has populated it with fee agents." So you admit that God (in your words) needs wisdom. I would simply say he has wisdom. In fact he is the most wise being. If there is a being more wise (or more <anything>) then that being is god.

If He has exhaustive knowledge of the future and omnipotence, He can just squash any resistance and force everything to run to His liking at all times.
Yes, he can. Does he? It appears not, since the devil is still running around. Will he? Prophecy says he will.

Wisdom is only needed if you need to outsmart your creatures, not if you merely intend to exercise control over them.
That's your way of looking at wisdom. God being the most wise may see reason to allow things to happen and creatures to move about. His thoughts are higher than your thoughts. He is more wise.

But this is where the chess analogy falls short; not because God is capable of losing once in a while,
(which he is not)
but because human chess champions still have limited intelligence. God, being unlimited in intelligence, can perfectly anticipate all possible moves that the opposing chess player could make from the start of the game. All of them.
You just defined an infinite God.

I have no idea how many possible ways a chess game could go from start to finish, but I would imagine it's in the billions;
Here your wisdom fails. If we have a board position and I move my Queen to the left by one; you move your Queen to the left by one; I move my Queen back one; you move your Queen back one. Infinite. Much larger than billions. And I could make such round trips more and more complex so that even man's intelligence would not be able to pick up that the game is not moving forward, just longer. And in those infinite cycles of moves, God knows EVERY ONE. He is also wise enough to know what is better than moving ad infinitum.

God knows every one of those possibilities and can focus His full attention on each one to make sure He never lets Himself be put in the position to be checkmated.
You now have defined not only an infinite God, but a most wise one at that.

I see no reason to think that the open view of God requires the possibility that there is a god beside or above Him.
The moment you introduce a flaw (inability to see infinitely into the future) you open up the possibility that there is another god who does not possess that flaw. There is NO BEING greater in ANY attribute than God. That is the biblical definition of him. These are his attributes.

I see your prooftext, and I raise you an Isaiah 38:1-5. That's where the prophet is sent to Hezekiah to tell him "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." Then Hezekiah weeps and prays about it, and God sends Isaiah back to the king to tell him that God will add 15 years to his life as a result. Question: did God ordain the days of Hezekiah's life before he came into existence (Psalm 139:16), and did the number of those years include the 15 years that were added?
So much easier to look at the 5th commandment. Honor your father and mother so that your days may be long in the land (KJV). So if I do not honor them then my days will be cut short? Some translations say that my days will be lengthened (AMP). Is it not known? (Ps 139:16)

Why are we here on earth? Are we to learn something? To grow? Those of us who will go on into eternity have accomplished something here that we take with us, so to speak. We learn. Why didn't God just start us off in eternity and give us that knowledge and experience?

I surmise that our existence is for US to learn and to experience and to grow. So when God, in the garden, calls out to Adam and says "Where are you?" It is not that God doesn't know where Adam is, but rather it is for Adam to ponder the situation and learn from it. When God "changed his mind" with Moses over the Israelites, it is not that God "changed his mind" but rather allowed Moses to work out the wisdom in all situations. Trying to give "fault" to God in these situations is not reconcilable with the diatribe he gave to Job at the end of that book.

So for whose benefit did God "extend Hezekiah's life" by 15 years? Was it for God's benefit? Did Hezekiah surprise God? No! God sought obedience from Hezekiah. God knew before creation he would get that obedience. He know he would "extend" his life. He already planned it. But Hezekiah learned a valuable lesson in obedience.

My point is that the biblical data on God's providence cuts both ways on this question,
(no, it doesn't. you're simply reading it with your own presuppositions and lack of wisdom.)
which is why there's a question to begin with. We wouldn't even be having this discussion if the Bible was clear on it.
I find the bible quite clear on it. Open Theism is the confused little child.

One of the most helpful ways of organizing the biblical data on this question was suggested by Paul Helm (a Calvinist) in the book "Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views". Helm was responding to Boyd's essay on open theism and he proposed organizing the biblical data into what he called A-data (for "all things") and D-data (for "dialogue'). Verses such as the one you quoted would be placed under A-data, along with other verses that suggest God knows all things. Under the D-data would be verses in which God and humans are speaking to each other, and God is describing Himself. The D-data tends to be the verses which support open theism, and the A-data would be the verses that support a classical view of God. Helm then goes on to suggest that the A-data should be taken more literally and the D-data should be reinterpreted in light of that, but I would draw the exact opposite conclusion. Why not let the words God uses to describe Himself be the words we take most literally? Why not reinterpret the ways in which the men who wrote the Bible spoke about God in light of how God speaks about Himself in conversation?
One reason is that looking simply at dialog as a literal, factual, this-is-the-truth-god-knows kind of viewpoint, makes many contradictions in the bible. And then you are left to choose which one you like rather than what is truth - because, as given there is no obvious truth.

And I posit that Paul Helm is human, and thus capable of error. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- the method he used here was in error. Rather than looking at the D-data as something lesser that needs to be taken with a grain of salt, why not look at the D-data as (remembering that God ultimately authored the bible) a working lesson for the humans involved. There is no fault in these dialogues with God -- for other scripture tells us the infallibility of God and the infinite knowledge that he possesses -- so the dialogues must be something other than a lack of knowledge on God's part: parables, learning stories, learning events. They are God playing a word game to get the human to understand, to get the human to come to terms with the problem at hand. God knew where Adam was hiding; he needed Adam to understand how utterly stupid it was to try to hide.
 

Gronz

New Member
I believe that God knows all that is knowable, versus God knows all things! Yet He is still the Almighty God, and we have enough free will to be judged. Does anyone who thinks that God knows all things, believe that God can know of a married bachelor or square circle, or of something that doesn't yet exist? So there are some caveats with regards to God's omniscience? The Open Theist struggles with the foreknowledge and free will dilemma because he believes that foreknowledge entails causation; but it doesn't. We all know of things that we foreknow yet do not cause. And we being finite cannot ever know the infinite mind and thinking of God. Ultimately we live in God's Matrix, what subsumes electrons, neutrons etc. is Christ. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being. And it is Christ who holds all things together, says the bible; yet God gives us enough free will to be judged so we ought to not debate over what He knows, but rather what we ought to be doing for Him? Make sense?
 

BlessedAnomaly

Well-known member
I believe that God knows all that is knowable, versus God knows all things! Yet He is still the Almighty God, and we have enough free will to be judged. Does anyone who thinks that God knows all things, believe that God can know of a married bachelor or square circle, or of something that doesn't yet exist?
"Something" that doesn't exist. A thing. God created all things. So, yes, if it is a thing (possible or not), God knows of it.

So there are some caveats with regards to God's omniscience?
Nope.

The Open Theist struggles with the foreknowledge and free will dilemma because he believes that foreknowledge entails causation; but it doesn't. We all know of things that we foreknow yet do not cause. And we being finite cannot ever know the infinite mind and thinking of God. Ultimately we live in God's Matrix, what subsumes electrons, neutrons etc. is Christ. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being. And it is Christ who holds all things together, says the bible; yet God gives us enough free will to be judged so we ought to not debate over what He knows, but rather what we ought to be doing for Him? Make sense?
Right on track.

In as far as the oxymorons and the things that simply don't exist, I put forth that they are what they are because God created them to be that way. God created all things (visible and invisible; possible and impossible; in our reality and not in our reality). All things. All of them were created by God.

Imagine a brick (like what you build a house with). Bake it so that it becomes a loaf of bread. You can't. Why? Because God already thought about that thing and decided that a brick will not process into a loaf of bread. It isn't because he forgot to create that transition. It isn't because he missed that one. No, it is because he decided that a brick will not process into a loaf of bread. He created it this way.

All things.
 

Rockson

Active member
I believe that God knows all that is knowable, versus God knows all things!
I have thoughts on how God knows the future which is different than anyone I've ever heard. Paul said in Heaven as he claims he went to the third heaven he heard and saw things he's not allowed to speak. Why would this be? I think I know. For if some things were spoken MEN would spend all their time talking about XWZ and not ABC. In this world God really might want us focusing on ABC and maybe on DEFG and the other things would be interesting but would tend to create a diversion of one's time and mediation. What I got I believe came down from Heaven on this BUT I could be wrong so I'm not claiming absolute insight. A lot of people claim God told them this or that and have been wrong and I could be no exception. I can understand why though some things aren't allowed to be spoken of. I believe if God told you how it's all set up it would stagger your minds but also give you great joy that it certainly is not the way Calvinists think and that it's not that way at all. I think the main thing is focus on what you said later in your post. Don't be too caught up on what God knows and doesn't know but rather have your focus on what God is telling you to do. I don't see anywhere where we'll be rewarded for understanding all mysteries, but you will be rewarded on how one outflows out of them the Spirit of LOVE. 1 Cor 13.
 
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