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How Does God Know the Future?
by Fred G. Zaspel
One aspect of God’s omniscience is his knowledge of the future. “Open Theists” have denied this, of course, but the
question is not really a difficult one. Over and again in Scripture God is presented as knowing what will happen. Not just
selectively but exhaustively God knows all that will be. Indeed, in Isaiah 46:8-10 God presents his knowledge of the future as
proof of his deity:
“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
For this reason I am very willing to describe the “openness” theology as virtual atheism. It has defined God in a way that
strips him of that which according to God himself is essential to his deity.
But in all this discussion the question at some point must be asked, How does God know the future? Or, more to the
point, What is the ground of God’s knowledge? How does God know what he knows?
Isaiah answers with some fascinating rhetorical questions:
Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and
who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him
the way of understanding? (Isaiah 40:13-14)
Isaiah is stressing the fascinating truth of God’s eternal omniscience. Simply put, God has never learned anything. There was
never a time when God said, “Oh! Now I see!” No, God has never learned. He has never gained information from outside
That is to say, the ground of God’s knowledge is himself. What this means in reference to future events, then, is that
God knows what will be because he decreed it. He knows the future simply because he is the God of the future, ordering all
things according to his own purpose.
This is why Scripture speaks of God has unchangeable in all his ways and as never having to adjust his plans (Job
23:13). God has no “Plan B.” He moves forward always toward the end he has decreed. Again, God knows the future not as
it unfolds but as planned from eternity.
Understanding that the ground of God’s knowledge is himself uncovers the flaw in a popular view of the doctrine of
election also. Arminians argue that God looks ahead, and, seeing who will believe, he then chooses to save them. But this
view is a small improvement over openness theology. In this case also God is contingent - he learns and gains information
from outside himself. But still Isaiah asks, “Whom did he consult?” It simply cannot be the case that God’s election is
grounded in a previous human choice of him. His knowledge of whom he will save is grounded in himself.
The God who has revealed himself in Scripture is not a God who, having looked ahead to discover what will be,
makes determinations accordingly. He is the God who looks ahead and sees a history that he himself has decreed. He is not
contingent. He is sovereign.
That is to say, he is God.