Greg Boyd Gives 5 Bullet Points about Open Theism in the Bible

Greg Boyd Gives 5 Bullet Points about Open Theism in the Bible November 6, 2015

shareasimage (6) Greg does us all a favor by compiling this helpful list of how the Bible speaks to Open Theism. Greg is a great guy and a great source for both pastoral and theological wisdom. Make sure you spend some time at the archives of If you need a basic introduction to the concept of Open Theism, start with: “A “dummies” guide for understanding open theism?“.

  1. The Lord frequently changes his mind in the light of changing circumstances, or as a result of prayer (Exod. 32:14; Num. 14:12–20; Deut. 9:13–14, 18–20, 25; 1 Sam. 2:27–36; 2 Kings 20:1–7; 1 Chron. 21:15; Jer. 26:19; Ezek. 20:5–22; Amos 7:1–6; Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10). At other times he explicitly states that he will change his mind if circumstances change (Jer. 18:7–11; 26:2–3; Ezek. 33:13–15). This willingness to change is portrayed as one of God’s attributes of greatness (Joel 2:13–14; Jonah 4:2). If the future were exhaustively and eternally settled, as classical theism teaches, it would be impossible for God to genuinely change his mind about matters.
  1. God sometimes expresses regret and disappointment over how things turned out—even occasionally over things that resulted from his own will. (Gen. 6:5–6; 1 Sam. 15:10, 35; Ezek. 22:29–31). If the future was exhaustively and eternally settled, it would be impossible for God to genuinely regret how some of his own decisions turned out.
  1. At other times God tells us that he is surprised at how things turned out because he expected a different outcome (Isa. 5:3–7; Jer. 3:67; 19–20). If the future were eternally and exhaustively settled, everything would come to pass exactly as God eternally knew or determined it to be.
  1. The Lord frequently tests his people to find out whether they’ll remain faithful to him (Gen. 22:12; Exod. 16:4; Deut. 8:2; 13:1–3; Judges 2:20–3:5; 2 Chron. 32:31). If the future were eternally and exhaustively settled, God could not genuinely say he tests people “to know” whether they’ll be faithful or not.
  1. The Lord sometimes asks non-rhetorical questions about the future (Num. 14:11; Hos. 8:5) and speaks to people in terms of what may or may not happen (Exod. 3:18–4:9; 13:17; Jer. 38:17–18, 20–21, 23; Ezek. 12:1–3). If the future were exhaustively and eternally settled, God could never genuinely speak about the future in terms of what “may” or “may not” happen.

So there you have it. If you want to go really deep, keep an eye out for Thomas Jay Oord’s new book, The Uncontrolling Love of God or Greg’s book, The God of the Possible.

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  • Skeptical Christian

    This is sorted out by the ancient distinction between God’s essence and his energies. He is unchanging and untouched in essence but by his energies/operations/activities He really participates in the creation. He is outside time, but participates within it by energies.
    ForeKnowledge and creative activity/causation are different energies/activities in God, and he foreknows the free acts of both man and himself. Foreknowlege doesn’t lock anything into existence, it merely is knowlege which is inherently eternal. Man acts freely, this is foreknown. God responds, this is also foreknown.
    So, this isn’t some game played by God, but he really interacts within his creation.

    Jesus said “Peter, you shall deny me thrice before the cock crows”. This isn’t an educated guess, but infallible knowledge of Peter’s free action.

  • Father Thyme

    God sometimes expresses regret.

    Isaiah 45:7 I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

    “Mistakes were made.” –God

    • zigthenzag

      hm. seems like irrefutable evidence of where evil comes from.

  • Thanks Kurt! To your book list I’d add one more … John Sanders’ The God Who Risks. It’s a truly superb reference for the Open View and even more approachable than Boyd’s (if that’s possible).

  • sanchoism

    Nothing catches GOD by surprise, Adam disobedience didn’t catch God by surprise, he created man with a freewill to choose and not a robot, HE operates inside what we call KAIROS and we humans operate inside CHRONOS .I believe creation is a massive peephole towards the nature and character of God himself, we’ve never woken up to a 26hr day(only once Joshua managed to pull of this off but by the approval and assistance of wise master builder Himself), we’ve never woken from a day that sun rose from west and settled in the east, all planets stick to their lanes/orbits since creation etc, There is an ordained plan that is running through the earth just coded inside the world events

  • jekylldoc

    Great stuff. Needs to take account of communication as the integral, essential means by which God acts. When Rabbi Kushner took on omnipotence in “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” his central argument concerned the nature of the communication made possible (or impossible) by the contrasting views. This is, in my view, a neglected source of understanding.

  • soter phile

    every single one of the above “IFs” is directly & repeatedly refuted by the rest of Scripture.
    at least for the community of faith, this interpretation of God requires ignoring the central tenets that comprise the faith.

    even merely from a literary perspective, this is a preposterous notion. it would be like reading Shakespeare while assuming Shakespeare was just making up the story as he went along – despite the fact that every aspect of the story bears marks of being purposefully thought through. “hey, what if Shakespeare was really just an idiot?” certainly changes how you’d read his works – but it’s not a very tenable position.

    Likewise, it’s silly to take the most read book in history and say, “yeah, God didn’t even know where Adam was in the garden. Sheesh.” It BEGINS by ignoring the primary thesis of the writing (e.g., God spoke everything into being in ch.1, but in ch.3 he can’t even “find” Adam? Occam’s razor, please).

    No, arguments for open theism from the Bible are the READER’S bias on display, and clearly not the authorial intent.

  • Nimblewill

    Can God’s character change? That is the overriding question. If it can, none of us can be sure that He is for us and will never be against us. If that is the case, what difference does any of this stuff mean anyway?

    • Anthony

      God’s character will never change, given the fact that He is committed to always conform His will to the dictates of His self-existent and eternal nature through His own mind. We can be assured He is perfectly and infinitely loving and therefore holy. We say God is holy because He voluntarily conforms all His conduct to the dictates of His own reason, not arbitrarily. There is no reason to fret, or fear in any measure. We can trust Him, He is perfectly and infinitely trustworthy. We could not be blessed or happy if He had not given us a good and sufficient reason to trust His character as holy, absolutely reliable, lovable, adorable, dependable, and worthy of our gratitude for giving us existence and to top it off, restoring us to Himself through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

    • jekylldoc

      There is something weird about a question concerning something on which we have no proof being taken as decisive for our confidence. Faith is not about knowing the answer, it is about placing our trust.