John Piper has said that open theism (i.e. the notion that God himself changes over time and can choose to be ignorant of His own future if He so chooses) "is an attack, however unwittingly, on the cross and on the work of the Spirit as our only hope of persevering faith and salvation."

What is the basis for this assertion?

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity S.E. I've edited this so that it is no longer a "truth" question. Such questions are not a good fit for this site, as it would just turn into a battle of opinions.
    – Narnian
    May 13, 2013 at 19:25
  • 3
    It would be good to add a basic definition of Open Theism as well.
    – Narnian
    May 13, 2013 at 19:26
  • The basis for which assertion? The basis for John Piper's assertion that open theism "is an attack..."? Or, open theism's assertion? Jan 11, 2014 at 11:32

1 Answer 1


The fundamental assertion of Open Theism is a fairly simple proposition - it posits that God experiences time in a fashion not unlike that of mere mortals. Unlike the more mainstream understanding of God's relationship to time - namely that God does not exist in time, nor is He constrained by it, in Open Theism, God, like man, is unaware of what the future actually is. In and of itself, that is not particularly radical or heretical - but the implications of that statement twist theologians into a lot of knots.

Prior to Creation, for example, it would have asserted that God did not know what His world would look like. It is not that he was unable to create any possibility (and that term is important for Open Theists), but rather that until he implemented any given possibility, it was not known. Asserting such a framework opens God up to the ability to form relationships, to learn, to love, and to grow as it were, precisely because he is not omnipotent.

And therein lies the crux of Piper's issue with Open Theism.

  1. In asserting that God can grow, change, and be open to relationship, it also has the effect of making him less than omnipotent. Omnipotence itself is not a central theological point, but it is widely held, especially in evangelical circles. If God either cannot or will not be aware of his own future, then he has cut himself off from a form of power and knowledge. He must then, thus, by choice or by nature, be less than all-powerful.

  2. Additionally, Open Theism, in opening God up to change, fundamentally must also deny the doctrine of immutability - sometimes called impassibility - or the doctrine that says, God does not change. If God can change, immutabilitists contend, then God cannot be perfect - for things that are perfect are not capable of becoming "more perfect" or "less perfect."

  3. Beyond that, if God is constrained by time in the same way we are, his eternality is also called into question. If God can change, then there can be a time in which God is different.

  4. Calvinists, of course, would also say that predestination becomes impossible under such a framework. While Calvinism is by no means universal, it is significant (especially amongst Evangelicals), and is a doctrine to which John Piper personally subscribes.

  5. Finally, Open Theism calls into question the Unity of the Trinity, for if God can change over time, then he could, in theory, have different "parts" at different points in time - the heresy of partialism. If God can change, then the Members of the Trinity could, for example, disagree - a logical conundrum that would have most Trinitarians scratching their heads.

In short - it's not that Open Theism is, in and of itself, heretical - but its natural consequences lead to the overturning of many established doctrines that, if overturned, would be heretical. It's a huge leap that changes a lot of what we "know" about God, and is therefore viewed with suspicion.

  • Would like to throw in a verse to support point #2: "I the LORD do not change." -Malachi 3:6. Therefore, saying He can goes against scripture.
    – exxodus7
    May 13, 2013 at 20:44
  • I don't disagree - I'm just trying to be fair to both sides. The primary point is that Open Theism implies a lot of heresy. This is meant as much as summary as anything else - there is a lot that could be said about any of these. May 13, 2013 at 20:46
  • 1
    As has been noted, Open Theists would also seem to require a much more relaxed method of interpreting scripture since foreknowledge and/or foreordaining are commonly referenced (e.g., Rev. 13:8, Ps. 139:16). If scripture is not clear and infallible, the basis for faith is substantially weakened; "I think God is likely to continue to be merciful because some of these writing might be his communication of that earlier intention" might not be very Good News. :-)
    – user3331
    May 13, 2013 at 21:33
  • I do thank Affable Greek for his thoughtful comment. It does make me wonder how God could have created anything if He did not know, in advance (logically - not temporally) what it would look like. Anyway, much obliged. May 14, 2013 at 19:40
  • @HarryJamesFox If you found it useful (and I thank you), I'd appreciate it if you click on the green check mark next to the answer. That's the Stack Exchange way of saying, "This was the answer I ended up finding most useful.". Thanks! May 14, 2013 at 20:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .