[ed. note: This was originally written by Louis Midgley and posted with permission.]
The discussion [on Open Theism] always ends up focused on whether God knows and must know everything in fine detail that ever has or will ever happen. Some insist that this has to be the case.
But the fact is that Latter-day Saints are strictly Open Theists, if any group of believer fit that label. Why? The reason is that creedal Christians, and this includes everyone who is locked into what is often called classical theism, ends up picturing God with attributes that Latter-day Saints from day one flatly reject. One is an Open Theist or can be described as such, if one is uncomfortable with or rejects classical theism. What do I mean by classical theism?
In what I am calling classical theism, and I am following a long line of authors in using this label, the divine attributes are such that Latter-day Saints flatly reject all of them, if they are understood from the perspective of those who hold them or from what is called the worldview they ground. In no particular order, I will identify these attributes. One must sense that these are not separable, meaning that one cannot coherently accept some of them and reject others. Put another way, they fit together into what those who hold them insist is a single coherent worldview.
In classical theism, the divine attributes consist of the following:
1. God is Unconditioned–that is, it is the Unconditional, meaning that it is not dependent on anything else. This is sometimes called aseity, which is a word meaning, I believe, “from self.”
2. God is Being. Think of the Greek word on from which we get ontology and remember how that word is used to qualify it in sectarian conversations. But one must understand that it is not just any old being. It is not even a being that exists somewhere–that is, is not corporeal. Instead, it is Being-Itself or the isness in everything that is. This explains why it is sometimes called the Supreme Being.
3. God is Eternal. This does not mean, in classical theism, that God just goes on and on, but that it is timeless. There is no time for it, meaning no past or future; it does not experience temporal sequence. If there as a past and future, then it would not be unconditional and would not has aseity and so forth.
4. God is Pure Actuality, meaning for it there is no potentiality. God is everything that it can possibly be.
5. God is Simple, meaning that it has no parts or is not a compound of anything.
6. God is Self-sufficient, meaning that it does not need anything, including us.
7. God is Incorporeal or Immaterial, meaning It is not embodied, however one thinks of bodies or material things.
8. God is Impassive, meaning that it is wholly apathetic about everything.
9. God is Wholly Other, meaning it is not like anything we can possibly experience.
10. God is Omnipotent, meaning that God has all power.
11. God is Omniscient, meaning God knows everything.
12. God is Creator and we are mere creature, meaning it created everything out of nothing and at that moment determined everything that can ever possibly happen.
13. God is really Real, while everything that it created is only real depending on the degree to which it participates in the ground of what is the only ultimate Reality.
14. God is Changeless.
In the various often competing and conflicting theologies that rest on classical theism, there are, of course, a host of disagreements about fine points. But it is clear that no petition addressed to God can really be heard, and none can possibly be answered, since that would entail a future and change and so forth. The future for human beings, understood as mere creatures, is wholly determined by the Sovereign God at the moment of creation. This explains why classical theists insist that God must not be involved with a plan, since planning and working to achieve what is planned runs directly in the face of about half of the what classical theists attribute to God
One final note: the passion with which classical theists have pushed their picture of the divine attributes can be seen in those instances in which theologians have insisted that nothing can be affirmed about God. One can only say what God is not. This is called the via negativa (or negative way). After insisting on this notion, theologians then write fat books about Divine things.
Conclusion: what is called Open Theism is a challenge to several of the divine attributes as set out above. This is good news for Latter-day Saints, since we need allies in our own conflict with classical theism. This does not mean that every Open Theist has a single way of seeing things or that we agree with any of the various versions of Open Theism. But the fact is that we simply must agree with much of what Open Theists believe, since what Joseph Smith taught flies in the face of classical theism. … For the record, I believe that God knows everything that such a being can know, but I must admit that I have no idea what that means, since I am not all that sure about much of what I think I know or exactly how I know it.