by John M. Frame
[This article appeared in Douglas Wilson, ed., Bound Only Once (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 83-94. It is used here with permission.]
Open theists deny that God knows the future exhaustively. In their view, God is often ignorant about what will happen,1 sometimes even mistaken.2 He “expresses frustration”3 when people do things he had not anticipated. He changes his mind when things don’t go as he had hoped.4 In these contentions, open theists admittedly differ from “the classical view of God worked out in the western tradition”5 that prevailed from the early church Fathers to the present with a few exceptions (such as the Socinian heresy6). This classical view has been the position of all Christian theological traditions: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and all forms of Protestantism.7 It affirms that God has complete knowledge of everything that happens in the past, present, and future. Thus open theism denies the historic Christian view of God’s omniscience. The present article will discuss the major issues in the controversy between the classical view and the open view.
Why this radical divergence from the almost universal consensus of professing Christians? Open theists offer various reasons for their position, but the most fundamental, in my judgment, is that the classical view is inconsistent with human freedom in the libertarian sense. Since open theists (also called “freewill theists”) want to affirm human freedom in this sense, they must abandon the classical view of God’s omniscience.
A free act in the libertarian sense8 is an act that is utterly uncaused, undetermined. It is not caused by God, nor by anything in creation, nor even by the desires and dispositions of the one who performs the act. Such causes may “influence” or “incline” us to a certain choice, but they never determine a choice, if that choice is free in the libertarian sense. At the moment of choice, on this view, we are always equally able to choose or not to choose a particular alternative.9 For this reason, libertarian freedom is sometimes called “liberty of indifference,” for up to the very moment of choice nothing is settled; the will is indifferent.10
Now if people are free in the libertarian sense, then human decisions are radically unpredictable. Even God cannot know them in advance. If in 1930 God knew that I would be writing this article in 2000, then I would not be writing it freely. I could not avoid writing it. So if my writing is a free choice in the libertarian sense, even God cannot have been certain of it in advance. Libertarian freedom excludes the classical view of God’s foreknowledge.11
On this view, the future is of such a nature that it cannot be known exhaustively. So open theists claim that on their view God is indeed omniscient, in the sense that he knows everything that can be known. That he lacks exhaustive knowledge of the future is no more of a limitation than his inability to make a square circle. Just as his omnipotence enables him to do everything that can be done, so his omniscience enables him to know everything that can be known. That includes knowledge of the past and present, but not the future, so open theists name their view presentism.12
For open theists, therefore, libertarian freedom is a fundamental premise, a standard by which all other theological statements are judged. Typically, open theists do not argue the case (such as there is) for libertarian freedom; rather, they assume it.13 It is their presupposition. So God cannot have exhaustive knowledge of the future. Pinnock says,
However, omniscience need not mean exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events. If that were its meaning, the future would be fixed and determined, much as is the past. Total knowledge of the future would imply a fixity of events. Nothing in the future would need to be decided. It also would imply that human freedom is an illusion, that we make no difference and are not responsible.14
He is saying that God cannot know the future exhaustively, because if he did we would not have libertarian freedom.
In my view, however, libertarianism is both unscriptural and incoherent.15 Scripture does speak of God determining the choices of human beings.
In Proverbs, the writer declares, “To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue… In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Prov. 16:1, 9).16 God’s counsel, indeed, brings everything to pass: Christians are predestined to eternal life “according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose17 of his own will” (Eph. 1:11; compare Rom. 11:36, Lam. 3:37-38).18
Open theist Gregory Boyd seeks to mitigate the implications of the fact that Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal (John 6:64, 70-71, 13:18-19, 17:12). But he concedes the heart of the matter:
Scripture elsewhere teaches that a dreadful time may come when God discerns that it is useless to strive with a particular individual or a group of people any longer. At this point, he withdraws his Spirit from these people, hardens their hearts, and thus seals their destinies (e.g. Gen. 6:3; Rom. 1:24-27).19
Clearly Judas’ decision to betray Jesus was not free in the libertarian sense. He was not then equally able to choose either alternative. Boyd implies that many human decisions are not free in this sense.
But what human decisions are free in the libertarian sense? Scripture never teaches libertarianism or even mentions it explicitly. Libertarians do try to derive it from the biblical view of human responsibility, but Scripture itself never does that. Judas is fully responsible for his betrayal of Christ, though we saw above that it was not a free act in the libertarian sense.
Nor does Scripture ever judge anyone’s conduct, as we might expect on the libertarian view, by showing that the conduct was uncaused.20 If only uncaused actions were morally or legally responsible, how could anyone prove moral or legal guilt? For it is impossible to prove that any human action is uncaused. Indeed, courts today as in biblical times rightly assume the opposite of libertarianism: that morally responsible actions (as opposed, for example, to accidents or insane behavior) are determined by motives. Lack of a motive diminishes or abrogates responsibility. So libertarianism, which open theists regard as the foundation of moral responsibility, actually destroys moral responsibility.21
These considerations show, in my view, that libertarian freedom does not exist. Therefore it provides no barrier to our confession that God knows the future exhaustively. And so important is libertarianism to the open theist position that without it, the open theist position entirely lacks credibility.
Divine Ignorance in Scripture?
Nevertheless, we should also consider the open theist contention that Scripture itself reveals a God who is sometimes ignorant about the future. Pinnock says,
Many believe that the Bible says that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, but it does not. It says, for example, that God tested Abraham to see what he would do and after the test says through the angel, “Now I know that you fear God” (Gen. 22:12). This was a piece of information God was eager to secure. In another place Moses said that God was testing the people in order to know whether they actually love him or not (Deut. 13:3).
He also mentions Jer. 32:35 (“nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination”) and the verses in which God hopes that “perhaps” his people will listen (Jer. 26:3, Ezek. 12:3, etc.) Throughout this discussion, Pinnock returns several times to talk about the importance of libertarian freedom, to the extent that the reader is entitled to ask if Pinnock is reading these texts through a libertarian lens.
As I indicated earlier, other open theists also discuss passages in which, on their view, God is uncertain, changes his mind, is frustrated, discovers new information, and so on. In this article I cannot deal exhaustively with this list of passages, but I will suggest some principles that bear on their interpretation:22
1. Typically, passages in which God “finds out” something occur in judicial contexts. In Gen. 3:9, God asks Adam, “where are you?” This is not a request for information.23 In this verse God begins his judicial cross-examination. Adam’s responses will confirm God’s indictment, and God will respond in judgment and grace. But the same judicial context exists in other texts where God “comes down” to “find out” something. See Gen. 11:5, 18:20-21,24 22:12, Deut. 13:3, Psm. 44:21, 139:1, 23-24. When God draws near, he draws near as the judge. He conducts a “finding of fact” by personal observation and interrogation, then renders his verdict and sentence (often, of course, mitigated by his mercy). So none of these passages entail divine ignorance.
2. God’s “remembering” and “forgetting” are also judicial categories in Scripture, because they are covenant categories. For God to “remember” his covenant simply means for him to carry out its terms. So God “remembered” Noah and the earth’s creatures in Gen. 8:1 (compare 9:15-16, Ex. 6:5).25 God’s “forgetting” is either his delay in fulfilling the covenant’s terms (Psm. 9:18, 13:1), or his administration of the curse to covenant breakers (Jer. 23:39).
3. When God says that something “never entered my mind” (Jer. 7:31, 19:5, 32:35) he is not confessing ignorance, but describing his standards for human behavior (still another judicial point). Note the context of Jer. 7:31:
They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.
The contexts of 19:5 and 32:35 are similar. “Mind” here is heart in Hebrew, often in Scripture the locus of intentions (compare 2 Chron. 7:11, Neh. 7:5). God is saying here that the horrible human sacrifice of Topheth is utterly contrary to his holy standards. God was not at all ignorant of these practices or of the danger that Israel would be tempted to sin in this way. He explicitly forbade human sacrifice in Lev. 18:21 and Deut. 18:10. So in the intellectual sense, these practices did enter his mind.
4. Some passages do say that God changes his mind in response to circumstances. Often Scripture says that God “relents” from a judgment he had planned, or regrets a course of action he had taken26 (Gen. 6:6, 18:16-33, Ex. 32:9-14, 1 Sam. 15:35, Joel 2:13-14, Amos 7:1-6, Jonah 4:1-2). Paradoxically, however, this divine changeability is part of God’s unchangeable covenant purpose.27 God says to Jeremiah,
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. (Jer. 18:7-10)
This principle means that many prophecies28 are conditional. The nature of their fulfillment depends on human responses.
This conclusion, in itself, is congenial to open theists. But what this implies is simply that God does not intend such conditional prophecies to be revelations of his unchanging purpose. Contrary to open theists, God does have an unchanging purpose, described in Eph. 1:11 and other texts noted earlier. That purpose is unchanging, but it ordains change, including the divine relentings mentioned in the above passages. God has decreed eternally that many of his purposes will be accomplished through created means, including intercessory prayer and the responses of people to conditional prophecies.
5. There are some ways in which God does experience change when he enters the temporal world. The incarnation of Christ is the clearest example, mysterious as it is. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) even though he was omniscient (John 2:24-25, 16:30, 21:17). He responded to events: rejoicing at this, angry at that. At one time he is rested, at another weary. He is born in Bethlehem, grows up in Nazareth. It was not merely the human nature of Jesus that underwent these changes, but the person of Jesus, the God-man.
But in a sense, God always experiences change of this kind when he is present in the world. When God met Moses in the burning bush, he said one thing, then another. When God acts in the world, in providence and redemption, his actions are temporally successive. He does one thing, then something else. He does what is appropriate in each situation, responding to one situation one way, to another another way. This is, as open theists emphasize, a kind of change.
Those who defend God’s changelessness against open theism sometimes describe these temporal successions as “anthropomorphic.” Of course in one sense everything we say about God is anthropomorphic, because we are using human language. But I don’t think the term anthropomorphic quite captures this temporal involvement of God in history. Anthropomorphic suggests that God does not really act in a temporally successive way. But in Scripture, God is really present in history, doing one thing, then another.29
The error of open theism is not in claiming that God’s actions in history are temporal and responsive, or even that in the temporal world there is a kind of “give and take” between God and his creatures. Open theists err, rather, in denying that in addition to God’s immanence in the world he also exists transcendently, governing everything in the world by his comprehensive decree.
So God is both fully omniscient and responsive to creatures. We may be grateful to the open theists for showing how pervasive in Scripture is the theme of divine responsiveness. But our conclusion should not be to deny God’s exhaustive sovereignty and foreknowledge. Rather, we should see him as even more sovereign than we had thought before: ruling not only from a timeless transcendent realm, but also as temporally omnipresent, existing in and with all the changing events of nature and history, using the give and take of history to accomplish his unchangeable eternal purpose, ruling immanently as the Lord.
God’s Exhaustive Knowledge of the Future
We have seen, therefore, that the divine responsiveness noted in Scripture does not refute belief in God’s eternal decree and exhaustive foreknowledge. But does Scripture give positive testimony to God’s exhaustive foreknowledge?
Scripture typically shows us God’s knowledge of the future by the phenomenon of prophecy. One aspect of prophecy is the prediction of future events. Indeed, one test of a true prophet is that his predictions must come true (Deut. 18:22). In Isaiah, God challenges the gods of the other nations to foretell the future, knowing that only he is able to do this (Isa. 41:21-23, 42:9, 43:9-12, 44:7, 46:10, 48:3-7).
Open theists agree that there is a predictive element in prophecy, but they insist that this predictive element does not imply that God has exhaustive foreknowledge. To show this, they enumerate three types of prophecy:
A prophecy may express God’s intention to do something in the future irrespective of creaturely decision. If God’s will is the only condition required for something to happen, if human cooperation is not involved, then God can unilaterally guarantee its fulfillment, and he can announce it ahead of time…
A prophecy may also express God’s knowledge that something will happen because the necessary conditions for it have been fulfilled and nothing could conceivably prevent it. But the time God foretold Pharaoh’s behavior to Moses, the ruler’s character may have been so rigid that it was entirely predictable…
A prophecy may also express what God intends to do if certain conditions obtain.30
I agree that in Scripture there are prophecies of all these kinds. I discussed conditional prophecies earlier, and of course I concede that God can announce his own actions independent of creaturely decision.31 The second kind of prophecy that Rice mentions ought to be troubling to open theists, because (as I mentioned earlier in regard to Boyd’s interpretation of Judas) it suggests that some human decisions (Pharaoh’s, in the quote from Rice) are morally responsible even though they are clearly not free in the libertarian sense. It is odd to see open theists speaking of “necessary conditions” for someone’s behavior and using terms like “rigid” and “entirely predictable”—deterministic language, in support of a libertarian view of things! Of course, for open theists, Pharaoh and Judas harden themselves before their hardening becomes irreversible, that is, before God hardens them. Nevertheless, even the open theists must admit that, once the hardening has taken place, God holds these people responsible for actions they could not have avoided.
I believe, however, that, besides prophecies of these kinds, there are others that (1) do not merely state divine intentions but depend for their fulfillment on human choices, (2) imply that God’s decision determines those human choices, and (3) are not merely conditional.
Consider, as examples, the early prophecies of the history of God’s people, given by God to Noah (Gen. 9:26-27), Abraham (Gen. 15:13-16), Isaac (Gen. 27:27-29, 39-40), Jacob (Gen. 49:1-28, Balaam (Num. 23-24), and Moses (Deut. 32:1-43, 33:1-29). Here God announces (categorically, not conditionally), many centuries ahead of time, the character and history of the patriarchs and their descendants. These prophecies anticipate countless free decisions of human beings, long before any had the opportunity to form their own character.
In 1 Sam. 10:1-7, the prophet Samuel tells King Saul that after he leaves Samuel he will meet three men, and later a group of prophets. Samuel tells him precisely what the three men will be carrying and the events of the trip. Clearly here God through Samuel anticipates in detail the free decisions of the unnamed men and prophets, as well as the events of the journey. Compare a similarly detailed account of an enemy’s war movements in Jer. 37:6-11.
In 1 Kings 13:1-4, God through a prophet tells the wicked King Jeroboam that God will later raise up a faithful king, Josiah by name. This prophecy occurs three hundred years before the actual birth of King Josiah. Compare references in Isa. 44:28-45:13 to the Persian King Cyrus over a hundred years before Cyrus’s birth.32 Many marriages, many combinations of sperm and egg, many human decisions are necessary in order for these precise individuals to be conceived, born, raised to the throne, and to fulfill these prophecies. These texts assume that God knows how all these contingencies will be fulfilled. The same is true of Jer. 1:5, in which God knows Jeremiah before he is in the womb and appoints him as a prophet. Compare also the conversation between Elisha and the Syrian Hazael in 2 Kings 8:12, and the detailed future chronology in Dan. 9:20-27 of the affairs of empires and the coming of the Messiah.
Scripture is not unclear as to how God gets this extraordinary knowledge. God knows, as I said earlier, because he controls all the events of nature and history by his own wise plan. God has made everything according to his wisdom (Psm. 104:24), and he works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:11). Therefore, God knows all about the starry heavens (Gen. 155, Psm. 147:4, Isa. 40:26, Jer. 33:22) and about the tiniest details of the natural world (Psm. 50:10-11, 56:8, Matt. 10:30). “God knows” is an oath-like utterance (2 Cor. 11:11, 12:2-3) that certifies the truth of human words on the presupposition that God’s knowledge is exhaustive, universal, and infallible. God’s knowledge is absolute knowledge, a perfection; so it elicits religious praise (Psm. 139:17-18, Isa. 40:28, Rom. 11:33-36).
So God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20). And,
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13).
Does that knowledge include exhaustive knowledge of the future? Given the inadequacy of the open theist arguments, the strong emphasis in Scripture on God’s unique knowledge of the future, and the biblical teaching that God’s plan encompasses all of history, we must say yes.
1 Clark Pinnock, “Systematic Theology,” in Pinnock, et al., The Openness of God (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, henceforth OG), 121-24.
2 John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 132-33.
3 Pinnock, op. cit., 122.
4 Richard Rice, “Biblical Support for a New Perspective,” in OG, 26-35.
5 John Sanders, “Historical Considerations,” in OG, 59.
6 For the connection between open theism and Socinianism, see Robert B. Strimple, “What Does God Know?” in John Armstrong, ed., The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 140-41 and Ben Merkle’s essay in the present volume. Sanders doesn’t mention the Socinians in his “Historical Considerations,” OG. 59-100.
7 Gregory Boyd, in The God of the Possible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 116, says, “No ecumenical creed of the orthodox church has ever included an article of faith on divine foreknowledge,” implying that the whole matter is an open question for Christianity. If by “ecumenical” creed we mean creeds like the Apostles’ and Nicene that are accepted by all branches of Christianity, Boyd here makes a correct historical observation. But those ecumenical creeds are rather brief. They don’t include articles on justification, for example. If we move ahead to the Reformation period, however, we encounter the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says that “In [God’s] sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain” (2.2), and the Confession reinforces this view of God’s knowledge with its view of God’s decree (3), creation (4), providence (5), free will (9), and effectual calling (10). For the Reformed tradition, at least, the extent of God’s foreknowledge is not an open question.
8 There are, besides libertarianism, other theological senses of freedom and free will. Moral freedom, for example, is freedom from the bondage of sin, given by God’s grace (John 8:32-36, Rom. 6:7, 18-22, 8:2). Compatibilist freedom (so called because it is compatible with determinism) is the freedom to act according to one’s own nature and desires. Scripture affirms the existence of freedom in these senses, but not in the libertarian sense.
9 Open theist William Hasker defines libertarian freedom as the view that “an agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent’s power to perform the action and also in the agent’s power to refrain from the action.” Hasker, “A Philosophical Perspective,” in OG, 136-37. Italics his.
10 For a longer discussion of libertarian freedom, see R. K. McGregor Wright, No Place for Sovereignty (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 43-62.
11 Traditional Arminianism tries to hold both libertarianism and exhaustive divine foreknowledge. In this respect, open theism is more logical than traditional Arminianism, but it pays a high theological price for its superior logic.
12 Sanders, The God Who Risks, 198-99.
13 I may have missed something, of course, but in the major writings of the open theists I have yet to find a serious argument for libertarian freedom. These authors express much distaste for views like Calvinism that deny such freedom, and they speak glowingly of the freshness, spontaneity, creativity, newness, etc. that libertarianism brings us. They also mention some Scripture passages that I will discuss below, but there is always a great leap from the text to the libertarian conclusion. They also suggest (see following note) that libertarianism is necessary to moral responsibility; but they offer no argument to that effect.
14 Pinnock, op. cit., 121.
15 For a more thorough discussion of God’s sovereign control over free agents and the inadequacies of libertarianism, see my forthcoming Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishers), especially Chapters 4, 8 (with 15 arguments against libertarianism), 14, and 16. I can only scratch the surface in this article, because I must focus on the issue of divine foreknowledge rather than on divine sovereignty in general. Much should be added, however, concerning election, reprobation, effectual calling, regeneration, and illumination, all of which presuppose God’s full sovereignty over human decisions. See also various Reformed systematic theologies on these subjects.
16 For more examples, see Ex. 34:24, Num. 23-24, Judg. 7:22, 1 Kings 13:1-3, Ezra 6:22, Jer. 1:5, Dan. 1:9. God also foreordains sinful actions (Ex. 3:19, 4:21, 7:3, Deut. 2:30, Josh. 11:18-20, 1 Kings 12:15, Psm. 105:24, Isa. 6:9-10, 63:17, Rev. 17:17), including the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus (Luke 22:22, John 6:64, 70-71, 13:18-19, 17:12, Acts 2:23, 4:28, 13:27). Human actions begin in the heart (Matt. 7:15-20, Luke 6:43-45), and the human heart is in God’s hands (Psm. 33:15, Prov. 21:1). People with sinful hearts cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). Their wills are not, therefore, indifferent to righteousness or sin. Faith, the human decision to believe in Christ, is a gift of God (John 6:37, 44, 65, Acts 13:48, 16:14). Those believe who are “appointed to eternal life” (Acts 13:48). Plainly God’s appointment implies that their choice was not indifferent.
17 The reference to God’s purpose clearly indicates that God knows what he is doing. If God’s plan governs all things past, present, and future, then his knowledge extends just as broadly.
18 Incredibly, neither Sanders, The God Who Risks, nor Gregory Boyd, God of the Possible, lists Eph. 1:11 in the Scripture index. Boyd doesn’t list Rom. 11:36 or Lam. 3:37-38 either. Sanders discusses the general contexts of the Romans and Lamentations passages, but he does not mention the indications there of the universality of God’s controlling plan.
19 Boyd, op. cit., 38.
20 Since Scripture never mentions libertarian freedom it obviously does not place upon it the value that Arminians and open theists ascribe to it. Open theists place such a high value on libertarian freedom that they are willing to sacrifice almost any other theological concept to accommodate it. It is the grid that governs what other theological statements are and are not acceptable. But they have no justification in valuing so highly a concept that Scripture doesn’t even mention.
21 Calvinists and other anti-libertarians often make this point in colorful ways. James H. Thornwell says, “As well might a weather-cock be held responsible for its lawless motions as a being whose arbitrary, uncontrollable will is his only law,” Collected Writings II (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 180. R. E. Hobart, arguing a secular form of determinism, says, “In proportion as [a person’s action] is undetermined, it is just as if his legs should suddenly spring up and carry him off where he did not prefer to go,” in “Free Will as Involving Determinism and Inconceivable Without It,” Mind 43 (Jan., 1934), 7.
22 For a more thorough discussion, see my Doctrine of God, especially Chapter 22.
23 If it were, it would show God’s ignorance of the present, not the future. But open theists usually claim that God knows the present exhaustively.
24 If in Gen. 3:9, 11:5 and 18:20-21 God’s “finding” presupposes divine ignorance, then it is ignorance about the present, not only of the future. Open theists don’t (to my knowledge) use these verses as examples of divine ignorance, because they believe that God does have exhaustive knowledge of the present. But if Gen. 11:5 and 18:20-21 can be explained without assuming divine ignorance, the same is certainly true of the other passages.
25 Douglas Wilson comments on Gen. 8:1, “then God remembered Noah”: “Does God smack his forehead in this passage? ‘Oh, yeah! Noah!’ Or in Exodus 6:5: ‘Man, that was close! I almost forgot. The covenant!” See Wilson,Knowledge, Foreknowledge and the Gospel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1997), 39. Neither Sanders nor Boyd in the books previously cited includes Gen. 8:1 or Ex. 6:5 in his Scripture index. Sanders (not Boyd) describes the rainbow of Gen. 9:14-16 as God’s “reminder to himself,” suggesting at least that God might otherwise have forgotten his plan. But such an idea impugns, not God’s knowledge of the future, but his knowledge of the past, despite the open theists’ affirmations that God’s knowledge of the past is exhaustive.
26 In these passages, relent is typically the Hebrew nacham, which can also be translated “be grieved” or “be sorry.”
27 Indeed, it is part of the meaning of God’s covenant name Yahweh. Notice how Joel 2:13 and Jonah 4:1-2 refer to the exposition of the divine name in Ex. 34:6, 7.
28 Not all, of course. Some prophecies explicitly exclude such conditions, as Jer. 7:15, Amos 1:3, 6, 9, Isa. 45:23, etc. Sometimes God guarantees the unconditional fulfillment of a prophecy by oath, as Psm. 110:1, Isa. 14:24, 54:9, etc. (compare Ezek. 5:11, 14:16, etc.) For an excellent account of conditional prophecy by a Reformed Old Testament scholar, see Richard Pratt, “Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions,” available at www.thirdmill.org.
29 God “responds” to creation even when there are no human beings around. After he creates light in Gen. 1, he responds by evaluating it as good and by naming the light and the darkness. We can see that any time God acts in history, in the creation, he will act responsively. In God’s acts within creation, there is always “give and take.”
30 Rice, op. cit., 51.
31 On my view, of course, creaturely decisions are themselves the result of God’s decisions.
32 I am assuming, of course, that Scripture is accurate in its account of when these events take place. If Scripture is God’s Word, then we must assume such accuracy, contrary to the usual approach of liberal Bible critics.