Our regular readers know that I have recently been teeing off on Calvinism around these parts in posts and comment threads. Of course in those discussions various Calvinists have tried to defend Calvinism in spite of the narcissistic and cruelly sadistic God it paints. After not having much logical ground to stand on in their attempts some of these Calvinism defenders have plaintively protested: “Well how do you reconcile real free will with God’s foreknowledge then?” My answer is simple: I don’t. I reject the idea of exhaustive foreknowledge because exhaustive foreknowledge requires a fixed future and a fixed future is fundamentally incompatible with real free will.
So when theological push comes to theological shove choosing real free will over a fixed and knowable future is a no-brainer. See several posts with longs discussions on this subject here. Here is the short version of why the choice is a no brainer: A fixed future is tantamount to predestination and it means there is no libertarian free will in the universe. A universe with no libertarian free will is a universe without any real moral responsibility. Besides, exhaustive foreknowledge would be useless to God because it would mean his own future is fixed and unchangeable as well. Rejecting a fixed future and accepting that we really are free agents solves all of those problems.
It is easy to pound on Calvinists with these simple and straight forward facts. But herein lies the problem with Mormons: Most Mormons want to accept exhaustive foreknowledge but we also want to accept robust (libertarian) free will. The problem is that the two don’t logically mix. The solution is simple; just reject the idea of a knowable, fixed future.
There is a name for this kind of thinking: open theism.
I think we Mormons ought to embrace the basic principles of open theism gladly. First because I believe those basic ideas are accurate. Second because they allow us to coherently reject the awful fatalism that encumbers Calvinism. Third because they fit so naturally into the Mormon traditions of emphasizing the agency of all humans while rejecting the unBibilical creedal idea of an unpersuadable God. Fourth because I think we ought to reject any logical nonsense we find in our theology.
Yes, I know that a lot of people really like the idea of a God that exhaustively knows the future. But exhaustive foreknowledge is fool’s gold — what good would it do God to know the fixed, unchangeable future? If it is really fixed and unchangeable then by definition even God could not change it. And the fact is that if God has the capacity to accurately predict future events well enough to fulfill all of his purposes and promises what would the practical difference be for us anyway?
Yes, I think we Mormons who care at all about theology ought to openly embrace a stance similar to open theism.