Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Jay Oord’

If God is “open and relational,” God knows nearly everything except probability

July 14, 2016

In this blog post on Scot McKnight’s blog, McKnight continues a review of Thomas Jay Oord’s new book, The Uncontrolling Love of God. It sounds like the book is another well-intentioned effort, as I’ve discussed recently, to “get God off the hook” for evil.

From Oord’s perspective, God doesn’t have foreknowledge because

God’s nature of love logically precedes God’s sovereign will. This means that God’s self-limiting Kenosis derives primarily from God’s eternal and unchanging nature of love and not from voluntary divine decisions. Because God’s nature is love, God always gives freedom, agency and self-organization to creatures, and God sustains the regularities of nature.

Oord sees a conflict between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom. Since God’s nature is love, which “logically precedes” his sovereign will, God doesn’t merely decide not to know the future (as some proponents of “open theism” maintain), he can’t know the future. If God did know the future, this knowledge would violate his loving nature, since love requires freedom.

This is confusing to me. If it’s impossible for God to know the future, then why does Oord talk about God’s “always giving” freedom and agency to his creatures? Freedom in this case isn’t a gift from God: We creatures can’t help but be free. It’s the default state of Creation. God couldn’t have created us otherwise.

If, like me, you worry that “open and relational” theology compromises God’s omniscience, contemporary philosophy, Oord believes, comes to the rescue:

Hasker and other open and relational thinkers believe God is omniscient. They believe God knows everything that can be known. God knows now what might occur in the future, but God cannot know now all events that will actually occur. To put it philosophically, God knows all possibilities and all actualities, but God cannot know which possibilities will become actual until they are actualized (123).

For free will to be genuine, the future must be open, not settled (124).

God knows all possibilities and all actualities, but God cannot know which possibilities will become actual until they are actualized.

In other words, God can know everything that’s possible, but he has no idea, apparently, what is probable. This is incomprehensible. Even we human parents, knowing as little as we do about the world, can often predict, with some degree of certainty, what our young children will do in a given set of circumstances.

But what if it were possible for us parents to have perfect information about every aspect of our child’s mind, motives, and behavior, along with perfect information about everything else happening in the world at a given moment? Then the power to predict our child’s behavior would approach perfect foreknowledge.

Nevertheless, God, who knows perfectly well all “actualities”—we are an open book to God in every respect at every moment—can’t do what human parents routinely do with a relatively infinitesimal amount of information.

Even if it weren’t incompatible with what the Bible reveals about God’s providence, it would be nonsense.