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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Help please, does God only know some of the future?

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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


I think perhaps a full look at Finney's theories are due. I am away for the weekend now but we could take a look at Finney's thoughts either here or in a new thread on Finney and Moral Government?

Ron Bailey

 2007/9/15 4:47Profile

Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


Earlier in this thread I pointed out that something like Finney's theory of Moral Government Atonement was necessary if the notions of Open Theism were to be possible. I acknowledge that Finney's theories would, in theory, be consistent with Open Theism. I felt I ought to make it clear that Finney did not believe in what is now called Open Theism as the following excerpts will demonstrate:

In his 1857 lectures on theology he devoted some section to what he termed "Natural Attributes of God". He gave 6, other lectures increased this number...

6. Immutability

Under Eternity he writes:
(4.) Eternity is to God as present time is to us.

a. By time, as it respects ourselves, we mean that portion of duration which commences with our birth and ends with our death.

b. By past time, we mean that portion of this period, through which we have passed and of which nothing remains to us but the remembrance.

c. By present time, we mean that point indicated by present consciousness; the point at which that mental state of which we are conscious is in exercise.

d. Our mental states or exercises are single, and successive, And by past, present, future, we refer to the order in which they or the occasions of them occur.

e. Time to us is the progression of existence and experience. Present time is that which is filled up by our present experience and consciousness. Successive exercises are successive experience. Successive experience is increasing knowledge. Succession, therefore, belongs to a finite being.

f. But God is not a finite being. He cannot be omniscient, and yet obtain knowledge from experience. Succession cannot therefore be predicated of him, either in relation to his existence or mental states. He always has the same mental state or consciousness. He can have no new thoughts, as there is no possible source from which to derive them. He can have no new affections or emotions, as He can have no new ideas or knowledge.

Therefore, his present consciousness is his eternal consciousness, and eternity is to him what present time is to us. God's existence is infinite, both in respect to duration and space. This is expressly declared in the Bible; and if it were not true he is infinitely less than infinite. As it respects God's existence then, space has no other idea than here. And eternity has no other idea than now. All here and there must respect such existences as are not omniscient. All past and future must respect such existences as are not eternally self-existent, and always equally and eternally old.

Omnipresence, to us, means both here, there, anywhere, and everywhere. But to God, it means only here. So eternity to us, means all past, present and future duration. But to God it means only now. Duration and space, as they respect his existence, mean infinitely different things from what they do when they respect our existence. God's existence and his acts, as they respect finite existence, have relation to time and place. But as they respect his own existence, everything is here and now. With respect to all finite existences, God can say I was, I am, I shall be, do, will do; but with respect to his own existence, all that he can, say is, I am, I do.

g. The Bible seems to favor this view of the subject, although it would guard against pressing our minds with such a metaphysical nicety. Thus God calls himself "I AM." Christ says, "Before Abraham was, I AM." To him a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. A thousand years here is a definite for an indefinite period. As when God says the cattle on a thousand hills are his, he means the cattle on all hills are his. This I understand to be an expression of the same kind. Its connection plainly leads us to this inference, that by a thousand years we are to understand all time, of which it is said, that it is as one day, or as present time to God."

He then suggests and answers objections to this position:

"2. I will now notice some objections to this view.

Obj. I. We can form no conception of an existence, to which there is no succession.

Ans. 1. The difficulty of this conception lies in our finite and progressive existence. All our thoughts, exercises, and experience, and knowledge, are progressive. Consequently we can form no positive conception of the modus existendi of a being, to whom succession does not appertain. Nor is this difficulty attributable to any want of perfection in our creation. As we are finite and began to be, it was impossible that God should create us in a manner that would obviate this difficulty. We once had no existence. We must therefore begin to be. Everything, therefore, with respect to us must be successive. Nor is this a difficulty that need be injurious to us. For we conceive of God with sufficient accuracy for all practical purposes, when we conceive of his existence as coeval with all other existences and events.

2. We can form no other conception of infinity, than that it exists and is that which is unlimited; and of course, that a positive conception of it is inconceivable by finite minds. To say that we have a positive conception or idea of infinity is a contradiction, as it supposes there is a whole of infinity, which implies a bound or limit; which contradicts the true meaning of infinity.

3. Although we can form no positive idea or conception of infinity; yet we can see that to speak of it as incapable either of increase or diminution, is a contradiction. So, although we can have no positive idea of the eternal, self-existence of God; yet we can see, that to say he began to be, is absurd and contradicts his eternity. So, although we can have no positive idea of his existence and mental states, as not successive; yet we can see that succession in his existence and mental states, involves the absurdity, that he grows older--- that he was once young---that he began to be---that he never was and never will be an eternal being---that he never was and never can be an infinite being---that he never can, in the least degree, approach towards being eternal in his duration, or infinite in his knowledge or happiness.

Obj. II. God always speaks just as if his existence and acts were successive.

Ans. He must of course speak of them as they appear and really are to us, or we should receive no ideas from what he says.

Obj. III. God sees things as they are or as they are not. Now as events do really occur in succession, they must appear so to him.

Ans. To us they occur in succession, but not to him. To us they have relation to place, but not to him. To us they occur before, behind, in time past, present, or future; but to him they occur here, and they occur now.

Obj. IV. It confounds and overturns all our methods of reasoning, with respect to the reality of events.

Ans. Events really are, with respect to us, what they appear to be. Our reasonings concerning the reality and existence of things, may be just as it respects ourselves and as it respects God. And yet, as it regards time and place, everything may be here and now to him, while to us they are spread through immensity and eternity. In other words, God is infinite and we are finite. We must always conceive of things, and reason as finite beings. He will always conceive of things, and reason as an infinite being, apprehending realities as they are to us, and in the relation they sustain to us in regard to time and place, and also having that infinitely different view of them that respects his own infinite existence."

Of God's omniscience, he writes:II. God's omniscience.

By the omniscience of God is not meant, merely the capacity of knowing all things. A distinguished commentator has defined omniscience to be a capacity to know whatever is wise to be known. This definition was resorted to, to avoid the inference of personal election from the fore-knowledge of God. Omnipotence, says this commentator, (not to use his words, but his idea,) is not the absolute doing of all that is do-able; but ability to do whatever is wise to be done. Omnipotence, therefore, in its exercises, is directed by wisdom. So omniscience, he says, is under the direction of wisdom. And while God's omnipotence does not do what is unwise to be done, just so omniscience does not know what is unwise to be known. To this statement it is sufficient to reply, that the thing must be previously known, before wisdom could decide whether the knowledge of it would be wise or unwise. But omniscience is the absolute knowledge of all existences, even, and things, actual or possible.


1. His works afford the most convincing evidence of a degree of knowledge, to which certainly a finite being can fix no bounds.

2. His providential government of the universe, strengthens and confirms this proof.

3. Prophecy would seem to prove that God must really be omniscient. Multitudes of the prophecies respect the future exercises and conduct of free moral agents. And a being who can with certainty predict the events of all time and eternity, foreseeing the end from the beginning, in respect to the exercises, and character, and destiny of moral agents, must be omniscient.

4. The administration of moral government, depends upon the exact knowledge which he possesses of the state of mind of every moral being in the universe, and of the exact result in which every movement of his government and providence will terminate.

5. His works of grace, in searching the heart, and bringing about the conviction, conversion, and salvation of sinners, must prove him omniscient.

6. The Bible expressly ascribes omniscience to him:

John 21:17: "Thou knowest all things."

John 2:24, 25: "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."

John 16:30: "Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God."

Psalms 139:1-6: "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compasses my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."

1 Chronicles 28:9: "And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever."

Romans 8:27: "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

1 Corinthians 2:10: "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."

Revelation 2:23: "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto everyone of you according to your works."Whatever my objection to much of Finney's theology, in his theology of God he was thoroughly orthodox. I don't often get the chance to quote him so I didn't want this opportunity to pass unrecognised! ;-)

Ron Bailey

 2007/9/18 10:01Profile

Joined: 2005/1/14
Posts: 2164


I had a thought the other day....

If open theism is true, then the classic theist has made a false god in their mind [b]greater[/b] than the God of the Bible. This would be true since the classic theist believes God knows everything- past, present and future. On the day of judgment will the classic theist be charged with making a god [b]greater[/b] than the God of heaven with his mind? Can a created mind come up with something greater than his creator? If open theism is true, then yes the created mind can produce a god greater than the God of heaven.

That just doesn't seem right to me...

Josh Parsley

 2007/9/18 10:54Profile

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