Since civilization first emerged, religion has always been a way for people to distinguish between right and wrong and unite under one faith. The most common religions that have survived from B.C.E. up until modern day are monotheistic. Throughout churches, the most popular view of God is that He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. However, this view has raised a multitude of questions, the predominant one being: If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, then how is there evil and suffering in this world? Many solutions have been created, and out of all the possibilities, open theism is the most convincing.
Open theism is an unorthodox approach to the “evil” question, and is the thesis that: “because God loves us and desires that we freely choose to reciprocate His love, He has made his knowledge of, and plans for, the future conditional upon our actions”. This essentially means that although God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, He does not know what we will freely do in the future, because each action a person performs has the possibility to change the future in a drastic way. In addition, open theism believes that God created the universe with the intention of bestowing free will upon humanity. This means that “one has the ability to transition several possible courses of action into one actual course of action”. That in turn demonstrates how God knows all truths that can be known, and can essentially do anything that can be done, but there is not set truth for the future so God cannot know which possibility will occur, and He simply cannot do something logically impossible, such as make 1+1 = 3.
Although open theism is appealing to some people, many others consider it heresy. The most popular reason why is that people believe that God has a grand plan laid out for everyone, and everything occurs for a reason, which is supported by the Scripture. However, the open theism view is that God only knows the possibilities of what can happen in the future, and the specific path cannot be known. These contradict each other, and is shown in an article by John Piper, saying: “But in reality our pain and losses are always a test of how much we treasure the all-wise, all-governing God in comparison to what we have lost.” Some even take it to another level, debating whether it is a damnable heresy. They say that it goes against the teachings of the Bible and the depiction of God, making Him seem more human in nature. Knowing this and still believing in it, they say, is considered heresy.
Not only is the general public’s opinion on open theism relatively negative, but the scholarly response to it is as well. A number of scholars opine that open theism helps cover up hidden idolatries. In one article, the author, John Piper, states: “One of the great needs of our souls is to know if we treasure anything on earth more than we treasure Christ. Treasuring anyone or anything more than Christ is idolatry.” Then, he continues, saying how the open theist view of the future makes God into a less sacred figure and more flawed, which leads to not holding Him above all others. In another article, by Roger Olsen, he states that although open theism is appealing for their approach to the problem of evil, their beliefs defy tradition and don’t yet explain things from the Bible.
Despite the multitude of opposition against open theism, the belief does provide a plausible solution to the problem of evil. It states that God did not want evil and suffering to exist, but He took a calculated risk to give humans free will. All of the harmful things that exist are from decisions made by humans, and although God may be omniscient and omnipotent, He can only know what can happen in the future, not what will happen. This approach solves the problem of evil without completely taking away from God’s omnipotence, omniscience, or omnibenevolence. Yet the main reason people object to open theism is because of its religious meaning instead of its logic. Since the theory of open theism is unorthodox and relatively modern, not many people believe in it. It goes against some traditional views of religion, therefore quite a bit of opposition has gone up against open theism.
Many of the objections to open theism are based on somewhat solid grounds, yet open theism isn’t as horrible as they make it out to be. People describe the view as being heresy, because it makes God seem more human and opposes the Scripture’s original, divine picture of Him. For example, on one forum, someone states: “Open theism has a god who is much less than God, one who is more human in nature and fraught with indecision and regret.” However, this is an exaggeration of open theism, and isn’t entirely accurate. Open theism states that God can know everything that can be known, which is essentially everything at the present and all the possibilities of the future. This does not humanize God in any way, since his abilities exceed human capability. Other opposers might argue against this, saying that this affects God’s omniscience, therefore changing the original view of God and causing open theism to be heresy. In response, open theism states that knowing exactly what will occur in the future is completely impossible, similar to performing impossible tasks. Being able to see into the future is similar to attempting to change the value of 1+1 to be 3. It’s simply impossible to do it, and God not being able to change the value of 1+1 does not take away from His omnipotence, therefore not being able to see the exact future wouldn’t take away from His omniscience either.
Open theism is on the basis of religion, so it is much more than simply a belief. For people who treat religion as a lifestyle, open theism would affect them much more. In the more common view of God, people believe that God has a grand plan for everyone, and everything is set in place. Every event that occurs happens for a reason, and it will all lead to a final point. To put this view into perspective, if a family member of someone passes away, a general method to cope with it is for people to say that it was all part of God’s plan and they are in a better place. In contrast, open theism believes that having the person die was not part of His plan, and He sympathizes with the mourner. At first glance, each method supports the person in mourning in a different way, the orthodox view giving the person sadness for the moment, but hope for the future, while the unorthodox view giving the person comfort and sympathy at the time, but apprehensive about the future. However, the original view of God doesn’t let people know what will happen in the future either. The believers simply hope that the future will contain a grand, overarching conclusion that is a happy ending, but many horrible things could lead to this for all we know. Thus, open theism actually benefits people during the ordeal, while the original view does neither, except provide some hope for the future.
The idea of an overarching plan that could cost possibly even lives has long been an area of conflict. On one side of the argument, people believe that God has a plan for everyone, and in the end, the good will prevail over the evil, no matter the cost. In addition, fate and destiny exist, meaning things occur to people for a reason. This idea provides believers with faith in God and trust in the future. In contrast, on the other side of the argument, having God being able to sacrifice anything for the greater good is considered immoral. Normally, if a person attempted to use someone to accomplish a goal, even if it cost the person their life, it would be considered inhumane, as it treated a human as a means to an end. If it is considered immoral for humans to use other humans as a means to end, how come it’s fine if God does it? Instead, God should treat people as ends, not as means. This belief also supports open theism, which essentially states that God does not have an overarching plan that costs lives.
Through my own, personal experiences, although I consider myself agnostic, open theism appeals to me more than the standard religion. My personality correlates more with open theism than with the original view of God, since I do not like the idea of having everything set out for me. My belief is that each person can change their future through each decision they make, and the idea of fate and destiny do not appeal to me very much. In addition, I tend to live in the moment, appreciating the present and paying attention to everything that occurs. This view of the world lets me relax more and not stress about the future. If something unfortunate ever happened to me or a loved one, open theism would sympathize with me, and contains many advantages over the traditional view. Although it may be unorthodox, open theism can affect people in positive ways, and can change lives.