The Main Variants of Open Theism

By | December 9, 2022

Here’s my current breakdown of what I think are the main variants of Open Theism. Briefly, I take Open Theism to affirm at least the following:

Open Theism =def. there exists a monotheistic God (understood along theistic personalist or ‘neo-classical’ lines) who has created ex nihilo a Creation that, by God’s design, has a partly open-ended future because it contains real causal contingency. Further, because and to the extent that Creation contains real causal contingency, the future of Creation is epistemically open-ended for God.

There are as many variants of Open Theism as there are ways of further specifying the above definition, but not all distinctions are equally salient. To keep this manageable, I’m going to set aside all strictly theological distinctions (e.g., Christian vs Jewish, Trinitarian vs Unitarian, etc.). We then arrive at what I think are the following main variations.

Regarding God’s knowledge, there are 3 basic types of Open Theism:

  1. Essentially Unrestricted Omniscience: God perfectly knows everything about everything in the unrestricted quantifier sense of “everything”. His knowledge of the future is open-ended because the future IS open-ended.
  2. Maximal Knowledge: God perfectly knows everything that CAN be known, but there are truths, including truths about how the contingent future will unfold, that just CAN’T be known.
  3. Voluntarily Restricted Omniscience: God CAN know everything about everything but chooses not to. There are truths about how the future will unfold (and perhaps also truths about the past and present) that God declines to access.

Regarding truth-values:

  • Proponents of (1) can be subdivided between those who affirm bivalence for propositions about future contingents and those who don’t. Those in the former camp (Bivalentists) say that will and will not propositions about future contingents are ALL FALSE, whereas those in the latter camp (Non-Bivalentists) say that they are NEITHER TRUE NOR FALSE.

Regarding whether there is a complete, true story of the future:

  • Proponents of (1) affirm an Open Futurist position according to which there is no such thing as a settled complete, true, linear story of the future. Details of the story that concern future contingents are yet-to-be-written.
  • Proponents of (2) and (3) generally affirm an Ockhamist position according to which there is a settled complete, true, linear story of the future. Details of that story that concern future contingents are either unknowable (2) or knowable but deliberately not accessed (3) by God.

Regarding God’s will:

  • Any of (1)–(3) can be subdivided between those who think God does exhaustive contingency planning from the get-go (ECPers) and those who think God makes some decisions later or even on the fly (Non-ECPers).

Regarding temporal ontology:

  • Any of (1)–(3) can be subdivided between those who affirm a Presentist ontology, those who affirm a Growing Block ontology, and those who affirm a Branch Attrition ontology. (There might be other ontological options as well, but those are the ones that come to mind.)

So, what am I, you ask? I’m a Bivalentist Presentist Unrestricted Omniscience Open Futurist ECPer Open Theist. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Main Variants of Open Theism

  1. Kerneels

    Alan, sorry to abuse this space. I am reading Inspired imperfection of Greg Boyd. I would like to know what your opinion of the book is. It leaves me dissatisfied. What is missing?

      1. Cornelius

        My final verdict is that Boyd misses in his book: Inspired Imperfection, at least the following:
        1. Boyd has a limited understanding of the difference between the old covenant (nationalistic etc) and the new covenant (universal).
        2. Boyd does not give recognition to God as upholding justice and punishing unrepentant sinners.
        3. The masked God of the OT that Boyd teaches, reminds me of the Calvinistic distiction of the revealed and hidden wills of God. It gives him freedom to reject whatever he wants to.
        4. The cross as the final revelation is used without taking into account the difference between the old era and the new era. See nr 1.

  2. Jaden M.

    Hey Alan, I tried looking up Branch Attrition theory and came up with not much of anything. Could give a brief explanation of it please if you can?

    1. Alan Rhoda Post author

      Hi Jaden,

      Branch attrition is an ontological model of time that, to the best of knowledge, is developed and defended by only one guy, philosopher Storrs McCall in a 1996 book (

      The idea, roughly, is that ALL causally possible futures are equally real—that’s the ‘branching’ part. As future contingencies resolve, the non-chosen future branches drop out of existence—that’s the ‘attrition’ part.


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