Open theism teaches that God is limited in His knowledge and control of what His free-will creatures will do. In this sense, God has limited himself so that He develops in His own understanding of what man decides and is reactionary in his interaction with men (i.e. men choose – God did not know his choice – reacts accordingly but without the full view of his own plan for history).
Now, this is not merely esoteric theological jargon. It is real and is being taught to many in churches and mainline baptist universities. My own alma mater, Baylor University, is guilty of this. Read this recent ARTICLE from the official school newspaper, written by Dr. Roger Olsen, Professor of Theology at Truett Seminary (at Baylor). Now, keep in mind that his attack is on Calvinism, but whether you fully understand / embrace that theological approach or not is not really the issue. The attack is on God’s sovereignty and His glory through sovereign means.
Most of the time when such a doctrine comes to the forefront, it is in view of tragedy. But we must realize that we cannot have God “both ways.” He is not in control and sovereign at one point and then ignorant at another. In facing tragedy (like the bridge collapse in Minneapolis) we have biblical basis to ask questions (why..how..what for.., etc). Just reading the Psalms shows us the validity of such questions as to God’s choosing for sickness, enemies, victories, defeats… However, scripture does not allow us room to ask how God missed that one! God, why were you asleep at the wheel of the world! These questions breach the line between sorrow or wonder at God’s allowance / enacting of seemingly tragic events AND God simply not being in control.
This neo-orthodoxy is not that new. Since the beginning, men have twisted biblical doctrine to elevate the goodness and ability of man. You really don’t have to travel further than Romans 3, Romans 9 and Ephesians 2 to rest assured that God is fully sovereign; always good; and often mysterious in how He chooses to magnify His glory in the eyes of men. This can appear cold, but I see it as the most beautiful doctrine that brings me to trust a most magnificent God that cares for sparrows and, all the more, cares for me. That He FULLY knows all my sin (past, present AND future) and atoned for it all. If you believe that God is limited in His knowledge, then the atonement is insufficient because it only covers the idea of sin and sets an example; but it ACTUALLY accomplishes nothing of purchasing my pardon in this theological view.
Notice how many times “seems” appears in Olsen’s article, along with “as far as I can tell” kind of statements. His reckoning of God is completely based upon his own sense of logic, rather than the objectivity of absolute truth in scripture. In all honesty, I find much greater offense at an article like this from someone within the Christian faith than an article dismissing God altogether from an atheistic point of view. It is this mixed elevated view of man and only slightly more elevated view of God that has led to virtually every heresy the church faced in her first 300 years of existence and in numerous generations since. I trust that God will prevail in His purpose, because scripture makes clear that God knows the beginning from the end and will complete His purposes because they have been established before the foundations of the earth!
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the Lord, who does all these things.