Meet Laelius Socinus. He was one of the founders of a secret religious sect operating under the banner of "Christian". In the late 1500's, this sect, called "Socinians", referred to themselves as Unitarians. The primary doctrinal difference between them and the rest of the existing Christian Church was on the nature of God. Most obviously, they denied the Trinity. They argued, instead, for ... well, a unitarian view. There was one God. The "Holy Spirit" wasn't a person, but was simply the power of God. And Jesus? Well, He was a nice fellow, but certainly no God. They saw "Christianity" as the religion of Jesus, not a religion about Jesus. Jesus lived an exemplary life and we ought to follow it. Oh, they had other differences as well. They affirmed human Free Will and rejected doctrines like Original Sin and the existence of Hell. They believed that there were many ways to heaven and held that, while the Bible may have been inspired by God, it was written by humans and subject to error. In other words, the Socinians had a serious problem with heresy. Today, Unitarians have achieved a new version of Christianity ... one without Christ. On their website they actually assert, "Belief in God is welcomed but not required within Unitarian Universalism." They claim, "We welcome people who identify with and draw inspiration from Atheism and Agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity, Humanism, Judaism, Paganism, and other religious or philosophical traditions." So the heresy has gone as one might expect. Reject God and you end up rejecting God. Embrace the supremacy of Man and you reject God. It's hard, once out that far, to call such a belief system "heresy" since it has lost nearly all connection with Christianity except for the occasional tacking on of the word "Christian".
But the Socinian heresy is not dead. There are various anti-trinitarian groups today including large ones like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. There are others who share their annihilation of the doctrine of eternal damnation and substitute ... annihilation. (Yes, I was playing with words there.) A large number of people calling themselves "Christians" would agree that the Bible was inspired but contains error. But the one I am concerned about is this one. Among their key beliefs, the Socinians were very concerned about the Free Will of Man. The article in wikipedia includes this paragraph:
The Socinians believed that God's omniscience was limited to what was a necessary truth in the future (what would definitely happen), and did not apply to what was a contingent truth (what might happen). They believed that, if God knew every possible future, human free will was impossible; and as such rejected the "hard" view of omniscience. (Italics in the original)
Interestingly, this is one of the key tenets of Open Theism: God is not Omniscient.
There is a problem with that, of course. I mean, if it was no big deal, I'd keep quiet about it. But it is a big deal. It speaks to the character of God and the reliability of Scripture. The Bible repeatedly claims for God that He knows all things. I won't belabor the point about knowing what we've done or what we think. They don't deny that. But there are repeated references over and over to God knowing more than what simply is or has been. Peter argued that Jesus knew all things (John 21:17). God claims for Himself, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose'" (Isaiah 46:9-10). The very existence of a prophet (including Christ) says that God knows the future. And how many references are there to either God's foreknowledge or His predestination? (Oh, oh! I know! I found 5 references to some form of "predestine", 7 references to "determine" in the sense of determing in advance, and 3 references to God's foreknowledge. That, of course, is without reference to prophecies and statements about the future. An example would be 1 Samuel 23:10-12.) (There is also a phrase, used in various places, about "long ago" or "of old" or the like. Acts 15:18 says that God declared what would be "from long ago". Jude 1:4 references people who were ordained to condemnation "from of old". So the number increases.) God's Omniscience with a capital "O" -- knowing all things including the future -- is supported over and over in Scripture, starting with prophecies as early as Genesis 3 and ending with the certainties of Revelation, the end declared from the beginning.
If Omniscience were alone here, perhaps it would be negotiable. Maybe we could discuss an alternative meaning. But it's not. If God is not Omniscient -- knowing everything -- then other characteristics change. God would necessarily be constantly learning as new things happen ... and we have eliminated the certainty of His claim, "I am the Lord, I do not change" (Immutability). He changes continuously! God claims to have no regrets (1 Samuel 15:29), but if He is constantly seeing new things, it is inevitable, isn't it? Of course, if God is incapable of knowing the future and unwilling to do anything about it, the concepts of both His Omnipotence and, more importantly, His Sovereignty are moot. He cannot alter the future. He cannot control His creation. All He can do is muddle about after the fact and hope to fix the messes we make.
Heresies come and heresies go. Generally, after they go they resurface. The Socinians were eliminated some time ago, but they're not gone. Their heresies are alive and well. Painfully, some of them reside in groups that consider themselves "Christian" and even "orthodox". It is clear to me, however, that the god of Open Theism is not the God of orthodoxy.
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