3

A Lutheran pastor told me that she believes God is not omniscient (and that this was a Greek concept later applied to God), but rather that God is in a process of "learning" how to deal with humanity. She elaborated her belief by explaining the following:

  • The way that God has dealt with humanity has changed over time. First a flood, then Mosaic Law, then Christ's sacrifice. She also sees a growing Christian acceptance of things that were historically classified as a sin (notably homosexuality) as a continued sign of God learning.
  • God has changed his mind, which suggests that he received new information and thus does not know all (e.g. Exodus 32:14 NRSV "And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.")
  • If humans were created in God's image, the fact that original sin entered through them suggests that God did not know that this would be a consequence (otherwise, he might have chosen either to not create them or to change the circumstances so that they would not have sinned).

She did however seem to think that God had some unchanging qualities, such as that he was benevolent. I suppose that an alternative way to interpret her view is that if these qualities are changeable, then God has not changed them and is not inclined to change them.

Answers as to the validity or orthodoxy of this doctrine are probably best served in other questions. For now, I'd like to know if there is a name for this view.

  • I was quite surprised that my Auntie, who is a JW doesn't believe God looks into the future in all things. Not sure on their official stance on the doctrine but it apparently simplifies the problem of evil in that God didn't know the fall would occur (which I disagree with) – David Jan 9 '17 at 20:20
5

This sounds most like process theology, though open theism is similar on this point. C. Robert Mesle explains the former simply:

In process theology, divine omniscience—God's perfect knowledge—means that God knows everything there is to know. But the future does not exist yet, except as a range of possibilities that have not yet been chosen. (Process Theology, 37; emphasis in original)

Process theologian Bruce G. Epperly goes into more detail:

Divine perfection has been understood [traditionally] in terms of God's complete and unchanging awareness (omniscience) and absolute and unilateral power (omnipotence). Process theology takes a very different approach, affirming the primacy of love, transformation, and growth as essential to understanding of God's nature. (Process Theology, 34)

Divine omniscience, according to process theologians, does not entail a timeless vision of the future in its actuality. Rather, God knows the actual completely as actual, while embracing future possibilities as potentialities, not settled events. New things happen to God; God has new experiences. (Process Theology, 50)

Open theism ultimately takes similar views, though rather than the idea of God learning or growing, it emphasizes libertarian freedom and a non-deterministic view of the future. It therefore argues that God's foreknowledge is limited or "open" in some way. There are a number of varieties (Wikipedia lists several), so generalizations are difficult, but Alan Rhoda writes that open theists by definition hold to the following two things:

Future Contingency: The future is, as of now and in some respects, causally open, i.e., there are future contingents.
Divine Epistemic Openness: The Future is, as of now and in some respects, epistemically open for God. ("Generic Open Theism," 4)

More detail than that seems outside the scope of this question, but interested readers can take a look at Rhoda's article to follow his argument.

  • I didn't think to ask if she believes God knows everything there is to know as of the present, although I'm fairly certain that she believes God knows everything about us at this moment, which is probably close enough to the view proposed by Process Theology for practical purposes. – Thunderforge Jan 9 '17 at 19:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.