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Archive for September 28th, 2010

John Sanders, a proponent of open theism, believes that believers will not fall away in heaven:

“All free will theists face the question as to whether our free will implies that we might fall away in heaven.  A brief response is that we will freely ask God to confirm our characters in such a way that we never choose to sin.”[1]

Note from the above, the nature of his claim:

1.)    He is making a claim about the future (“will”).

2.)    He is making a claim about many people (believers), and what they will do with their libertarian “free will”.

Yet, in light of Sander’s Open Theism, it is epistemologically impossible for him to know the above claims.

For one reason, Sanders himself is a finite human being, who cannot know the future (and same with other human beings).

Secondly, the only other person that can know this might be God, and from His knowledge He then revealed it to Sanders.  But Sander’s Open Theism denies the doctrine of divine foreknowledge, thereby undermining this possibility.  Sanders denies God’s foreknowledge on the metaphysical basis that the future does not exists:

“If the future already ontologically exists (is real), then God must know it’ but if it is not real, then God is not ignorant of some reality, for there is nothing ‘there’ to be known.”[2]

If what is future can not be known, and the decision of people and God interacting with one another in heaven is still in the future, then it follows then that the decisions of people and God cannot be known.[3]

Thirdly, while an appeal can be made that God “knows” because of His decision of what He will do in the future for the occasion believers enter heaven, this attempt fails because it has to account for Open Theism’s doctrine of human libertarian free will.  According to Sanders, he explains God’s relationship to man’s libertarian free will:

“Furthermore, free will theists, in contrast to proponents of meticulous providence, can say that one reason for God’s not intervening in a particular situation is his unwillingness to interfere with the libertarian freedom of the people involved.”[4]

Note that the God of Open Theism is unwillingness to interfere with people’s freedom.  Libertarian freewill supposes that the will is “free” when it has the ability to make contrary choices.  If God “confirm our characters in such a way that we never choose to sin”[1], then Liberterian free will ceases in Heaven.  Yet, Open Theism has stressed that libertarian free will is necessary for a relationship with God.[2] Apparently, relationship with God and man is possible apart from libertarian freedom, or man has no relationship with God in heaven.  Either way, there is incoherence with Open Theism in terms of it’s doctrinal relationship of believer’s eternal security in heaven, libertarian free will, the precondition for relationship with God, and God’s lack of divine foreknowledge.


[1]Ibid, 206-207 n.10.

[2] Ibid, 233-235.


[1]John Sanders, “Divine Providence and the Openness of God,” in Perspectives on the Doctrine of God, edited by Bruce Ware (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2008), 206-207 n.10.

[2] Ibid, 228.

[3] This argument is a valid argument.  The structure is Modus Tollens.

[4] Ibid, p. 212.

[5]Ibid, 206-207 n.10.

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