The debate over openness theology or free-will theism continues to bubble along nicely. Books both for and against continue to pour from the presses. In the past two decades some thirty volumes have been penned directly on this issue. One of the latest to weigh in, offering the “no” case to openness thought, is What Does God Know? Written by veteran theologian Millard Erickson, it explores one major component of openness thought, the belief that God does not know the future. Erickson has actually written before on openness theology, with parts of The Evangelical Left ( Baker, 1997) and God the Father Almighty (Baker, 1998) offering critiques of the movement.
Erickson begins by assessing the biblical support offered both by open theists and classical theists. This is followed by a look at the hermeneutical issues involved. It seems these sections could have been a bit stronger, and he seems to over-rely on Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory (Crossway, 2000) here. But it is a good introduction to the biblical material that is being debated.
He next explores the historical development of God’s foreknowledge, arguing that although it was not a major doctrine of the early church councils and creeds, it was in the main supported throughout church history by most of the church. There have always been dissenters on this issue, but they have tended to be in the minority, and often on the edges of orthodoxy.
He then explores the philosophical debate surrounding God’s foreknowledge. These are some of the stronger chapters in the book, as Erickson has always had as good a grasp of philosophy as theology. He demonstrates that the claims of the openness camp concerning classical theism’s over-reliance on Greek philosophy are overstated and somewhat misleading. He also shows that openness thought is also quite dependent on philosophy in its own right.
He concludes by looking at the practical consequences of these two theological systems, and how they impinge on other major doctrines of the faith.
All in all this is a very good restatement of classical theology, and a very incisive and irenic critique of openness thought. Erickson is always a joy to read and he has done a good job here in defending the traditional understanding that God does indeed know all things, even the future.