June 24, 2002
First person: Checkers tell the score on open theism
___Does God know the future? Let me answer like this:
___H.L. Cravens, legendary Howard Payne University teacher, was a world-class checkers player. Occasionally, he would challenge any and all students who wanted to try him. As many as 16 checkerboards might be lined up for the event. Cravens would step to the first checkerboard and move a checker, then to the second board, and on, until he had played each student. Then he would retur
n to the first board and make the rounds again. It was never long before boards began to fold, and finally Cravens had defeated all challengers.
___For years, I assumed my friend knew all possible moves on a checkerboard and had strategies for dealing with any of them. I suspected that after the first two or three moves, he knew whether his opponent was a serious player or not and he could usually predict what each player was likely to move next.
___Shortly before his death, I told him I had often described his checkers knowledge as analogous to God's knowledge. He confirmed that I was right in most of what I said, but he assured me he did not know all possible moves that might develop during the course of a game. Those moves, he said, seem almost infinite.
___He agreed, however, that after the first few moves he knew what kind of player he was up against and that at any given moment he knew not only what possibilities there were for the next move, but also what move a given player was likely to make. He also knew ahead of time how he would respond, depending on what choice his challenger took.
___I see his knowledge of checkers as a pointer to God's knowledge of the future.
___The world and human history are infinitely more complex than a checkers game, but God created it all and knows all its possible moves. Humans were created with genuine freedom, but God still knows all possibilities that exist for humanity as well as for each individual. God is omniscient in the sense he knows all future possibilities and cannot be surprised or caught unprepared. But because God is love, and because he created humans with the freedom that love entails, God does not know the actual future until it happens. It is open.
___He is prepared to accomplish his purpose no matter what human choices are made, but if the human is genuinely free, God cannot know which option will be taken until it is acted upon. God can be trusted to complete the creation and redemption he has begun. He will not be defeated.
Professor of Christian studies
Howard Payne University
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