Does God Know the Future?
A significant contingency in Christianity— open theists— are currently communicating that God does not have perfect knowledge of the future. How do we respond to this crisis within Christianity?
First, the Bible from beginning to end demonstrates the omniscience of God. In the words of Isaiah, God knows “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). As such, God’s knowledge is exhaustive, including even those things yet future (cf. Job 37:16; Psalm 139:1–6; 147:5; Hebrews 4:12–13).
Furthermore, if God’s knowledge of the future is fallible, biblical predictions that depend on human agency might well have turned out wrong. Even Jesus’ predictions in the Olivet Discourse could have failed, thus undermining his claim to deity. God himself could have failed the biblical test for a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22). Indeed, if God’s knowledge of the future is incomplete, we would be foolish to trust him to answer our prayers, thus negating the “confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15).
Finally, while open theists suggest that God cannot know the future exhaustively because he changes his plans as a result of what people do, in reality it is not God who changes, but people who change in relationship to God. By way of analogy, if you walk into a headwind you struggle against the wind; if you make a u–turn on the road the wind is at your back. It is not the wind that has changed, but you have changed in relationship to the wind. As such, God’s promise to destroy Nineveh was not aborted because he did not know the future but because the Ninevites, who had walked in opposition to God, turned from walking in their wicked ways. Indeed, all of God’s promises to bless or to judge must be understood in light of the condition that God withholds blessing on account of disobedience and withholds judgment on account of repentance (Ezekiel 18; Jeremiah 18:7–10).
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am
God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none
like me. I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say:
My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:9–10
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