Below are some questions posed to me on some e-forum I took part in...most of these questions deal with the internal consistency of the view of an open future and a God who dares to undergo 'before-and-afters' (smile) in His experiences, actions and knowledge...
If a room only has 3 chairs, would it be considered a deficiency in our knowledge to say that we do NOT know there are 4 chairs? Similarly, if the future does not yet exist in its entirety, we can't insist that 'All-knowing-ness' requires knowledge of all the future.
God knows all that can logically be known. Open theists insist
that God has created a world in which the temporal dimension of the future
remains to be actualized in the present and we view this as the best
understanding of God and His creation in light of the Biblical data.
Circumstances in our life won't change His LOVE for us, but it's due to this steadfast passion that He willingly changes His plans for judgment whenever we repent and turn back to Him, just as He tearfully made the judgment originally contingent upon our obedience (or lack of).
Judgment is only one example, but I'm sure we can think of other very natural 'changes' affecting the Perfect Lover, resulting from His love for His Beloved. An unchangingly patient, compassionate and sensitive Person obviously waits for others, adapts somewhat to others' choices, and not give ultimatums and 'non-negotiable' options all the time.
We need to reconsider our notions of 'perfection' and hopefully move away
from 'static' categories (introduced and embodied by the philosophy of
Plato). We must understand God as a Person and thereby subordinate our
definitions of perfection to the dimension of the personal.
We can once we realize that ALL His actions (even and especially His mind-changing) spring from unchanging love. He will NOT change His mind about how much He loves us, in case that's what you're concerned about.
He has died for you, put His seal on you, and is even now in you changing your character to be more like Him. What more 'assurance' do you want to be confident that He will be for you all the way till the end? Our security must come from knowing and trusting in the Person-hood of God Himself, as expressed in His actions in the history and promises for the future. Always remember that we're talking about Him who has saved us and continually wills and acts in us according to His good purposes.
On the other hand, let us not be too smug about non-changeability. For
example, how much comfort would we get from the notion that God has
unchangingly decreed that some of our friends or loved-ones will NOT be saved
no matter what?
By trusting in the character, wisdom and power of the One who will fulfill the prophecy (and not in the fact that the future has 'already happened' or that God is living in some Timeless Present). This is similar to the eternal security issue, and so again the focus must be on the loving Person from whom the power/knowledge flows, and not on the nature of the power/knowledge attributes themselves.
(Bear in mind, though, that much of Scriptural prophecy involves conditional
fulfillment. See especially Jer
18:7-8 and my response to John Piper's denial of any conditionality in God
whatsoever. However, I assume that you're referring here to
promises like that of eventual victory for believers in the future i.e. the
'to-be-fulfilled-regardless' type which, let me remind you, may still not be
fixed in its timing, *smile*)
Just think of a dad and his teenage kid - who is 'in control'? Is the kid 'sovereign' if the dad says that it's 'up to him' to clean his room and be accountable for it everyday? Assuming the kid messes up his room, would that mean that dad is NOT 'in control' of the house or even the room?
Sure the dad can just brain-wash the kid or tie him to a corner of the
house, but wouldn't you consider giving the kid a genuine responsibility and
choice to clean his room an expression of love and a desire for discipline on
the part of the dad regarding his kid?
To say that God can be surprised by His creatures is not to state that He's groping around blind through the alley of time. Such divine 'surprise-ability' as I propose represents the very richness and natural flavor in all love relationships. Remember that God is also Person whose Heart touches other hearts and who I believe delights in the spontaneity and anticipation within a perfectly healthy relationship. God enjoys being surprised by the wonder of His own creation, and the occasionally unexpected acts of faith and commitment by His people move Him deeply.
Yet bear in mind passages like John 2:24:25 and 1 Kings 8:39b. God knows the hearts of all men so let's never associate His openness in love with ignorance and gullibility towards Man's schemes.
Thus, the 'fright' mentioned at the start should be alleviated by the fact
that God is all-wise and omni-competent enough to deal with any situation which
occurs according to His love and goals for us. Also, He will not let His
ultimate aims be frustrated by anyone (Psalm 2).
To keep it short, I would say that love involves risks but also that love *seeks to settle certain things* on behalf of the beloved. Love involves, among thing, the act of ensuring certain things happen whilst presupposing the presence of risks.
I love my girlfriend and want her to love me back; this presupposes that there is a risk/uncertainty that she won't love me. I simply *cannot conceive* of love WITHOUT risks, of a love where EVERYTHING is 'settled', of a personal relationship in which I know EVERYTHING she is going to do.
Yet, because I love her, I will *seek to make certain* SOME things (her security, her comfort in my presence, her assurance of my loyalty, her going out with me at least twice/thrice a week, etc. - all these things involve 'making sure', 'settling', 'giving assurance', etc. It's way of 'actualizing the future', *smile*).
Likewise, with God.
God can settle things as the future opens up, as He sees the hearts of His people, as they respond to Him and His testing of their true intentions. He can flex the timing of His promises and prophecies as He pleases according to the 'variable factors' involved, etc. In fact, I would argue that the Second Coming is truly an open issue with respect to TIMING - God is waiting for more people to turn back to Him and/or for the evil of the Anti-Christ to 'pile up' to an extreme end-point.
Concluding, we can say that Love definitely involves risks and 'unknowing' - there is no way to get around this. Yet, we can also say that OUT OF LOVE one hopes to 'make certain' some things.
And this is what I see in our Heavenly Father...and His creation of a future, which is partially settled (what will be) and partially un-settled (what may be)...