Does God Hold False Beliefs?
I turn now to seven specific charges that Ware brings against the open view.
Ware alleges that in the open view, “God must…possess innumerable false beliefs about what will happen in the future.” In my opinion, the claim is quite unfounded. It is of course true that Scripture reports Yahweh as revealing that at times he “thought” or “expected” something would occur which didn’t come to pass (e.g. Jer. 3:7–8, 19–20; Isa. 5:1–5; Ezek. 12:2). And it’s true that open theists find no compelling reason to not take this language at face value. But only a most unsympathetic reading of Jeremiah’s and Isaiah’s language—and of the open theists who simply repeat it—would conclude that this language entails that God holds false beliefs.
A more sympathetic explanation is readily available. When God says he “thought” or “expected” something would take place that didn’t take place, he is simply reflecting his perfect knowledge of probabilities. When the improbable happens, as sometimes is the case with free agents, God says he genuinely “thought” or “expected” the more probable outcome would happen. Because God is infinitely intelligent, we cannot conceive of God being altogether shocked, as though he didn’t perfectly anticipate and prepare for this very improbability (as much as if it was a certainty from all eternity). But relative to the probabilities of the situation, the outcome was surprising [viz. improbable].
Jeremiah and Isaiah (and open theists who repeat their language) can only be accused of ascribing false beliefs to God if they claim that God was mistakenly certain something would occur which did not occur. But no biblical author, or open theist, has ever said this.
To turn the tables for a moment, if I may, the question Ware must answer regarding such passages is this: Why does God reveal that he “thought” or “expected” something was going to occur which in fact did not occur if he knew from all eternity (or predestined from all eternity) that it would not occur? If one insists that open theists have difficulties in taking passages like Jeremiah 3, Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 12 at face value, must we not concede that those who anthropomorphize these passages because they do not square with the doctrine of exhaustively definite foreknowledge face difficulties at least as serious as these?