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Open theism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K3580-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Open theism is the name for a model of God which emphasizes divine love and responsiveness to creatures. It arises from a family of theologies known as free-will theism which accentuate the divine gift of freedom to humans and hold that God does not micromanage the affairs of the world. The name open theism was coined in the 1990s by a group of philosophers and theologians in order to distinguish it within the free-will theistic family. God is ‘open’ to creatures in that God is affected by what creatures do and God genuinely interacts and enters into dynamic give-and-take relationships with creatures. These reciprocal relationships mean that God has a history which includes changing mental and emotional states. As a consequence, open theists affirm that God is temporal and everlasting rather than atemporal and timeless.

Open theists believe that God is omnipotent but chooses not to exercise tight control over creation. Instead, God grants to creatures great latitude to act within boundaries. Because God chooses to elicit our free collaboration in divine plans God takes risks that we will act in ways contrary to the divine intentions.

According to open theists the future is ‘open’ as well because it contains multiple possible futures that may or may not come about rather than solely one unalterable future. The future is not a blueprint or script but rather a set of possibilities, and God solicits the cooperation of creatures in order to bring some of these possibilities into existence. Since the future is not determined and humans have genuine free will, God does not know with certainty future contingent actions. Rather, God possesses ‘dynamic omniscience’ in which God has exhaustive knowledge of the past and present and understands what we call ‘the future’ as the possibilities which could occur along with any events God has determined to occur. Divine omniscience is dynamic in that God constantly acquires knowledge of which possible future actions creatures select to actualize. Open theists reject standard accounts of divine foreknowledge because they believe that they are incompatible with human freedom, they are of no value to God in terms of planning and acting in world affairs and they fail to correspond with the biblical portrayal of God.

Citing this article:
Sanders, John. Open theism, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K3580-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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