Open Theism VS 1 Samuel 23

Open Theists will regularly champion 1 Sam 23 as a defense for God not knowing the future. The problem is that 1 Sam 23 only defends Open Theism if you 1) limit your analysis to 1st stage thinking, and then 2) add an argument from silence. But should you follow through with the consequences of Open Theism, you’ll see that 1 Sam 23 causes more problems than it solves.

Recap of 1 Samuel 23

While David was on the run from Saul, he got wind that Saul was getting close to his Keilah hideout, so he enquired of the Lord.

DAVID: “O Lord God – Saul is getting close to Keilah to destroy the city on my account. Will Saul actually come?”

The Lord answered: “Yes – Saul will come to Keilah” (v 10-11)

DAVID: “..and will the men of Keilah turn me over to Saul?”

The Lord replied: “Yes, they will” (v12)

David: “Oh, snap. Well, we better get out of here! C’mon men! Let’s ride!!” (v13)

Twenty four hours later

SAUL: “Curses!! Foiled again, dagnab that wiley rascal! Let’s go back to home, boys.”

Open Theists look at this and say: “Ah-ha! God did not know if David was going to stay or to go. That option was ‘open’ to Him. And if David stayed, sure enough, the men of K-town would’ve turned him over to Saul, just as God had predicted. Voila: Open Theism rules!!”

But there are several problems with this hasty conclusion, and to see this, we need to first bifurcate between “potential future action” and “certain future action” (ie, how people might act vs how people actually will end up acting).

With that in hand, we can then ask the following questions about what God does and doesn’t know. Namely, how is it, exactly, that God knows…

  1. the certain future thoughts and actions of Saul,
  2. the potential future thoughts and actions of the men of Keilah,
  3. but doesn’t know the certain future thoughts and actions of the men of Keilah,
  4. and doesn’t know the certain future thoughts and actions of David? (if God knew the certain future action David would take, then He would know the men of Keilah would not turn David over because David was going to be long gone)

You can slap a fancy label of “dynamic omniscience” on the situation, but do me a favor: peel back the label and actually try to explain how that works. What are the mechanics of that process? You can’t explain it and be orthodox, because any attempt to do so will necessarily posit that someone or something is withholding some facts from God, but releasing other facts to God. And that necessarily means that someone or something is more knowledgeable/powerful than God. Brothers and sisters: that’s certain heresy.

Open Theists need to insist on at least the following 5 facts:

  1. God somehow had access to certain knowledge that Saul would go to Keilah.
  2. God somehow only had access to potential knowledge of what the men of Keilah would surely do if and only if David stuck around
  3. God did not have any access whatsoever to certain knowledge of what David would do
  4. God did not have access whatsoever to the certain knowledge of what the men of Keilah would do [because their action is contingent on what David would do, and as stated in #2, God didn’t have access to that knowledge, otherwise, God would have said “No worries, David – they’re not going to turn you over because you’re about to split. Now go split.”]
  5. The argument from silence is this: Because God didn’t explicitly say what would certainly happen, He clearly did not know what would certainly happen.

The argument from silence is the nail in the coffin, causing the whole argument to collapse on itself: how is it that God could have certain knowledge about what Saul would do, yet not have certain knowledge about what the men of Keilah or David would do? Something external to God is controlling His access to knowledge. And with so much lack of knowledge on God’s part, the burden of proof falls to the Open Theists to explain how in the world God ever knew any future events at all, potential or certain!

A Better Explanation

A much better explanation is this: God simply answered the questions as David posed them, treating them as conditional situations (“if X, then Y”). Nothing more.

And answers like that tell us nothing about a lack of omniscience.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




Let\'s see if you\'re really a human: *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.