From reading books criticizing Open Theism to many casual conversations online and in person, I have formed a list of the top 6 misnomers about Open Theism:
Misnomer 6: Open Theism is regurgitated Arminianism.
This is an unfair criticism which almost always comes from Calvinist. It is unfair because it fails to pay proper due to vital distinctions between these views. Granted people usually travel through Arminianism on their way to Open Theism, but the difference is significant enough that the two cannot be equated as the same. The vital difference, of course, is that Arminianism is largely based on the concept of Simple Foreknowledge. For Open Theism, there is nothing “simple” about God’s foreknowledge.
Misnomer 5: Open Theism teaches that God does not know the Future.
It might shock some people to discover that Open Theism is quite indebted to Calvinism in at least two crucial ways: 1) Open Theism believes that God foreknows that which he foreordains. Like Calvinism (and unlike Arminianism) God’s foreknowledge is based on what he has predetermined to sovereignly cause and to sovereignly make happen. 2) God sovereignly over-rules man’s free will in order to sovereignly cause or sovereignly make what he has predetermined to happen, happen. So it is not accurate to say that God does not know the future. He knows it in so far as he determines it.
Misnomer 4: Open Theism undermines God’s Divine Sovereignty.
Again, and not surprisingly, this criticism comes largely from the Calvinist camp and is based on the commandeering of the term “sovereignty”. Open Theist understand the term sovereignty to be a reference to God’s ability and authority, and does not see sovereignty as a term which preconditions God to control all things. Open Theists (like Arminians) teach that God has the sovereign right and ability to limit himself if he so sovereignly chooses too, and for the sake of the covenant which God established with humanity, he chose to limit his foreknowledge. This allows for a genuine relationship between God and his children.
Misnomer 3: Open Theism undermines biblical prophecy.
Many Christians find their faithful security blanket in biblical prophecy. Wherever Open Theism is introduced the first kneejerk reaction is to ask: What about prophecy? Doesn’t Open Theism cast doubt on biblical prophecy? Open Theism believes that there are two types of prophecy in the scriptures, contingent prophecy and determination prophecy. 1) Contingent prophecy is evident throughout the scriptures everywhere terms like “if” or “maybe” or “perhaps” comes from God’s lips; they are contingent upon the actions of individuals (e.g. Jeremiah 26:3). 2) Determined prophecies are prophecies which God himself has determined will happen and sovereignly makes or causes that thing to happen (e.g. Ezekiel 24:14).
Misnomer 2: Open Theism undermines future prophecy.
In close relation to Misnomer 3 is the fear that somehow our future in Christ may not be secure. Is it possible that in the end the Devil might just pull a quick on one God and win the day? First it is important to note that the end has been determined by God, the fact that God wins in contingent upon nothing but God’s sovereignty. Second, the question about the enemy maybe pulling a quick one on God may reveal something of the questioner’s idea of God; as if God, if he were not in control of every detail, can’t control anything. From the Open Theist perspective, the concept of god this question is based on is simply too small. Open Theism believes that God is omnicapable, omniresourceful and infinitely intelligent as well as omnipotent. Like a master chess player – only infinitely more so because God is infinite – God sees every possible move the enemy could ever possibly do and God has prepared an action for everyone one of those moves. The enemy cannot win, because God said so.
Misnomer 1: Open Theism denies God’s omniscience.
Since many people take for granted the belief that the future is already determined completely (something Calvinists and Arminians agree on), it seems obvious to them that if God were to not know the future fully, this must mean that God must not be omniscient. This amounts to a denial of an orthodox attribute of God. But Open Theism has a different view of time. The Open Theist understanding of time is that the future simply does not exist yet, and there is nothing in reality or science to suggest that it does. So, beginning on that premise (and not on the Calvinist/Arminian premise) God can still be omniscient, he can still know everything, without knowing the future exhaustively. There are two reasons for this: 1) theologians and Christian philosophers have long acknowledged that God cannot do what is logically impossible. For example, God cannot hear silence because silence is the absence of sound, there is nothing to hear, and therefore it is logically impossible for God to hear silence. Because the future simply does not exist, it is unknowable and it is logically impossible to know the unknowable. 2) Because omniscience is defined as knowing all there is to know, and because the future is not knowable the way the past and present are, God can be omniscient and yet not know the future.