Does God Know The Future?
Seems as though it’s a rhetorical question, but I will explain that there are movements in Christianity that do believe that God does indeed not know what our actions will be. There are four major views on the foreknowledge of God. I’d like to note that this study is in the realm of Theology Proper. Theology Proper is the branch of theology concerned with the characteristics of God; this refers to the study of His incommunicable (attributes we can’t share with God such as omniscience, omnipotence, and the like) and communicable attributes (attributes we have as God does such as love, hate, and the like).
‘To confess that God exists, and at the same time to deny that He has foreknowledge of future things, is the most manifest folly.‘
The four views are The Open View, Simple Foreknowledge View, Middle Knowledge View, and The Classical View. What do you think has given us these varying views? What else? Free will. I pray that someday we do not concerning ourselves with our free will and God relieves us all of our anthropocentrism. Anyway, here are the four views of divine foreknowledge.
The Open View
This is a theology based upon the interpretation of Scripture broken into two “motifs” or ways of understanding God’s foreknowledge. The first motif is that of “future determinism” or that God does indeed determine future events to come to pass, but the other is the “motif of openness.” This means that Open Theists believe that God determines some things, but other things He allows to come about through the free actions of creatures.
The classical view of divine foreknowledge interprets the first motif as speaking about God as he truly is and the second motif as speaking about God only as he appears to be or as figures of speech. In other words, whenever the Bible suggests that God knows and/or controls the future, this is taken literally. Whenever it suggests that God knows the future in terms of possibilities, however, this is not taken literally.
Gregory Boyd, ‘God of the Possible’ (pg. 14)
An Open Theist believes that determinism and freedom are not compatible (the position of incompatibilism) which is in contrast to the Classical View of God’s foreknowledge. They would pose the question: “if God truly knew what was going to happen, how can you say that we are free?” They believe in Libertarian free will or the belief that we can choose to the contrary. Due to this apparently high amount of freedom God has granted us, He cannot know what will come about in certain circumstances.
‘While claiming to offer meaningfulness to Christian living, open theism strips the believer of the one thing needed most for a meaningful and vibrant life of faith: absolute confidence in God’s character, wisdom, word, promise, and the sure fulfillment of his will.‘
You have to be careful when reading Open Theistic theology. It sounds logical, in fact it is the logical extension of the Middle Foreknowledge view; but this stance is in no way Scriptural. They largely take anthropomorphisms (attributing human characteristics to God for our understanding) out of the Bible. Due to this, they would take a passage that says God “changed His mind” (Exodus 32:14) or that God “regrets” (Genesis 6:6) literally. Modern advocates of this theology include Gregory Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Sanders.
“Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.“
1 Samuel 15:29
The Simple Foreknowledge View
This view is advocated in modern Synergistic (Arminian) theology. This view says that God knows all, but only because He “learns” about what we do. In other words, God endowed us with such freedom (Libertarian again) that God’s knowledge is contingent on our free actions. This is how Arminians reconcile their doctrine of Conditional Election or that God chooses us because we choose Him.
In this view God does not foreordain or determine what will come to pass. Here is an example of an example of how they read into Scriptures back up the doctrine of contingent election:
For those whom He foreknew [that is to say that God saw who would choose Him when He looked down the corridors of time], He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined [contingent upon their self-determining will], He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
This view is problematic because it actually reveals that God is the ultimate source of determinism and not the individual (logical fallacy of “irrelevant conclusion”). Furthermore, Paul does not say what I put in brackets above. He simply says: “For those whom He foreknew” which in itself does provide for us to infer such an interpretation. The Greek word for foreknow is proginoÌ?sk which means “to forsee/foreordain.” And verse 30 clearly states that “these whom He predestined, He also called” which ascribes the action to God.
“Therefore, even if God did base his predestination on faith which he foresaw, it was a faith which he himself intended to create. So the whole motive for the idea of foreknown faith collapses. It still leaves us with the freedom and right of God to elect or choose whom he will call effectually into faith. For God to predestine someone on the basis of faith which he himself creates, is the same as basing predestination on the basis of election.“
The Middle Knowledge View
This view of God’s foreknowledge is also referred to as Molinism; it was pioneered by Luis De Molina, a Jesuit, and remains a staple in Catholic orthodox doctrine. This theory again attempts to reconcile Libertarian free will with that of God’s foreknowledge. This view contends that God looked through all possibilites of different worlds and chose one that coincided with His will so as not to determine choices by willing agents (humans). It is also summarized in saying that God knows all the possibilities of our future free actions. The Remonstrance, or articulation of the Five Points of Arminianism, largely reflects the view of Molinism (to which Jacob Arminius advocated).
That is why it’s in the “middle.” That is to say it is in the middle of God’s inability to know our future free decisions (in the Open View) and God’s foreordaining those future free decisions (as is held in the Classical View). Modern proponents of this theology include Luis de Molina, Jacob Arminius, Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and Thomas P. Flint.
The Classical View
The Classical View is the view that radically deviates from the previous three. In this view, God did not “learn,” “choose between possibilities,” or simply “not know.” This view contends that God is sole determining agent. He has complete and perfect knowledge of the future, because He determined as such.
This view, as averse to other three, doesn’t hold to the free will definition provided by Libertarian philosophy. The view on free will in the Classical View is referred to as Compatibilism. This doctrine says that determinism and free will are in fact compatible. So, their definition of free will is not that we can choose otherwise, but that we are not coerced in making the choices God ordained. The three previous views see this as illogical, and they attempt to resolve the apparent paradox. The first thing you learn is hermeneutics is to allow the Scriptures to speak for itself, and always interpret Scripture with other Scripture. Therefore, if something is seemingly a paradox, do not try to resolve it. Let’s look at the following examples of how all orthodox Christians view a scenario such as this.
- The Father is God (John 8:41), The Son is God (John 1:1), The Holy Spirit is God (1 Corinthians 3:16).
- God is one (Mark 12:29).
- Therefore, God is Triune.
- God is sovereign and determining (Ephesians 1:11, Isaiah 46:10).
- Man is free (James 1:14) and responsible (Isaiah 55:6–7).
- Therefore, free will is compatible with sovereignty.
No Christian would try and resolve the doctrine of the Trinity (although we do have Modalists, Mormons, and other cults that do attempt to reconcile this doctrine; but they are not Christians), but Christians squirm when they hear of Compatibilism.
“But what if the foreknowledge of God, and the liberty of the will cannot be reconcilled by man? Shall we therefore deny a perfection in God to support a liberty in ourselves? Shall we rather fasten ignorance upon God, and accuse Him of blindness to maintain our liberty?“
‘The correct approach is to insist that God foreordains all things and that all future events are under His sovereignty. The future is absolutely certain to God. He knows what will take place, and He foreordains what will take place. Foreordain does not mean coerce. It simply means that God wills that something take place. He may will future events through the free choices of creatures. This is the great mystery of providence — that God can will the means as well as the ends of future events. God can even will good through the wicked choices of men.‘
This view is held by Monergists (Calvinists). Modern proponents include Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, and John Owen.
One Final View
Outside of these four prevailing thoughts of God’s foreknowledge we find a minority thought system called Process Theology (Process Theism). This theory is based on philosophical speculation on the metaphysical nature of God. This theology states that everything in life is a process, and this applies to God as well.
This means that God grows with us, learns with us, and is dependent on us. That is that reality is not static (in one sense determined) but is continually evolving. This theology denies the self-sufficiency of God as well as some hold to denying the pre-existence of Christ and the Trinity in its orthodox form.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
It is the author’s opinion that the Classical View gives the most glory to The Creator’s omniscience and sovereignty over His creation. The Bible speaks of God creating and foreordaining according the “kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). Let us glorify Him as such.
In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
Soli Deo Gloria!
For more information visit Monergism.com.