The main tenet of Open Theism is that man has free will and, consequently, God does not know what we are going to do.
There is Biblical evidence that can be interpreted to be in support of this view. The evidence suggests that God has changed his mind … at least, that’s one possible explanation for what we are about to read.
But it may not be the only explanation.
Before looking at alternatives, however, let’s see the evidence.
This example has three parts, all from the Old Testament. It begins with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
In a nutshell, everybody and every creature is vegan. No meat, no eggs, no fish. Just plants.
That’s what God commanded.
“And it was so.”
Presumably some time passes with everyone munching on leafy greens, nuts and fruit — er, except for that apple tree over there, of course.
Next, we thumb forward to chapter nine, still in Genesis, for the first change.
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
“Okay, you can eat the animals [and bugs!] now,” seems to be the message.
God seems to have changed his mind. We’re not told why — that’s where the “interpretation” comes in — but clearly the vegans have now become not just carnivores but, more so, they are now “omnivores.” They are permitted to eat anything. (If you read further, the next verse in the Bible prohibits sushi — uncooked flesh — but that’s a different point.)
So, the barbeque gets fired up, burgers are torched and then buns warmed before adding lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise or, if you’d prefer, mustard, pickles and onions.
Finally, we turn to Leviticus for yet another change, this one directed to the “Nation of Israel” where the Mosaic dietary Laws are spelled out.
[God said,] There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
In the vernacular of contemporary America, God seems to be saying, “But lay off camels, hyraxes, rabbits and pigs. In fact, don’t even touch them if you find a dead one.”
So, omnivore-ism is out, or at least it’s “out” for God’s Chosen.
The barbeque in the backyard can still be Kosher but only as long as there’s no ham in that “hamburger”.
Taken collectively, these three quotations from the Old Testament appear to show that God has changed his mind about what is OK to eat. And they seem to say He has changed his mind more than once.
Open Theists may point to these verses as an example of where God has changed His mind.
But did He?
Is there another explanation, if we can be so presumptuous as to guess at God’s plan, motives and thinking?
(I will be “so presumptuous” — God gave me a brain and I’m quite certain He expects me to use it. [And to hopefully, for my sake, come to the right conclusion.])
Another explanation for these changes is that God is giving us different messages at different times — and to different groups — because we’re not ready for the whole story from the “get-go”. Instead, He is maturing us, growing us, and He is supplying the “lesson” one step at a time as we are ready for it.
This seems to be an entirely reasonable explanation.
It’s not that God changed His plan because we did something unexpected, but rather that God is expecting us to change, to learn, and because of that, His lessons in what to eat are part of His plan on how to “grow humanity.”
If you’re an Open Theist, you might balk at this “alternative interpretation” but, well, there it is. Since we can’t know the mind of God, we can only speculate at His reasons.
But that doesn’t mean the idea of Open Theism is wrong. On the contrary, this interpretation still supports the idea that God doesn’t know what we’re going to do.
You see, if God knew what we were going to do each step of the way, His intervention, His “changing of the rules” about what to eat, would’ve also had to have been part of His plan.
But why didn’t He start us out on the mixed diet from the very beginning?
Because we had to learn something first. We weren’t ready for it. Something in the human creature needed to change first.
So, God knows we will — or should — change and He’s prepared to change the rules when that happens.
Did He always know what we would do … or at least that we would do it but He didn’t necessarily know when we would?
If God always knew what we would do, then there is no reason for Him to “build in” this intervention. That is, if the intervention is pre-planned, then not even God has Free Will in the matter. It’s all cast in concrete. It is going to be A, then B, then C, and so forth through all of time, like a movie that plays out to its predictable end no matter what we in the audience do.
So, if you know everything that’s going to happen in a movie, if you know every line, every look, every clash of sword and spurt of blood, why bother watching? (If you say, “Because it’s exciting,” you’re just confessing that, at some level, you don’t know what’s going to happen. If you truly knew, there would be no reason to watch or listen.)
That gets us to the central nub of Open Theism.
And if everything in life is predestined, then why bother to even let it play out?
What’s the point of that?
So, here’s the bottom line at least as I see it: Predestination doesn’t make sense — why would God figure everything out … and then make it happen?
But he knows what’s going to happen!
He knows, without a shadow of a doubt, what’s going to happen.
Why bother tipping over that first domino if you know exactly what’s going to happen?
Oh sure, it looks cool to see one domino hitting another after all that time spent setting it up, but at some stage, doesn’t it become rather pointless? I mean, if there’s no one to entertain — remember, God knows exactly how it’s going to play out if everything is predestined — then why actually bother to do it.
So, I throw out the idea that everything is predestined on the basis that God would find it so predictable (!) that He simply wouldn’t bother setting up the dominoes much less tipping over the first one.
God crafting a totally predestined universe just doesn’t make sense.
It can have no purpose, no meaning, no reason to play out.
Predestination just makes no sense.
So, I discard the idea.
And if predestination is out, then that means God doesn’t know.
By definition, if predestination is out, then God cannot know what will happen.
And if God doesn’t know, then Free Will is back in play.
Now be careful: God may still have a plan, and He still may have lessons to teach us, and He still may “play out” the rule changes as we learn, so the Biblical quotations I’ve used here aren’t necessarily God changing His mind. They may simply be new lessons He is delivering as we learn.
But we are changing, and God doesn’t necessarily know when, or even if for sure, those changes will happen.
Free Will must, therefore, be at play.
It has to.
God may not “change His mind” but, then again, He cannot know which of the near infinite set of choices in front of me today that I will actually choose.
He has to wait and see what choices I make.
And when He thinks I’m ready, He provides the next lesson.
But will I “get it”?
That’s another story.