Open Theism and Epistemology

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Puritan Board Freshman
What are the implications of open theism on epistemology, especially for Van Tillians? On a presuppositional critique, would not open theism render knowledge impossible, since they deny the providence of God over all things? I have been reading Van Til's Apologetic, and it seems that one of Van Til's main arguments is that without the all-controlling God of the Bible who relates all facts to each other, then there is no basis for intelligibility. Van Til basically says without One with an all-comprehensive knowledge, there is no knowledge at all.

Since God does not have knowledge of all future events in the OV, would a presuppositional critique not involve demonstrating the fact that the OV cannot account for the unity of knowledge?

I would like to write an essay on this subject, but I am still having a hard time grasping Van Til's argument concerning the unity of knowledge, so any ideas would be great, as well as any comments or clarifications concerning VT's arguments.

The first question that would need to be answered, in my opinion, would be is comprehensive knowledge necessary for knowledge in general? If you can have true knowledge without comprehensive knowledge, then this critique would not work at all. What do you think? Any resources specifically concerning these issues? Has anyone seen a critique like this of open theism?


Puritan Board Freshman
Originally posted by Paul manata
Frame critiques OT from a presuppositional perspective in his book on the subject.

Go with Frame's No Other God. I finished it the other day and liked it.


Puritan Board Freshman
So is comprehensive knowledge necessary for true knowledge in the first place? If that premise is not justified, then the argument would fail as I see it...


Puritan Board Freshman

Yes to your last question. Bahnsen seems to make the argument that unless one has comprehensive or knows everything, then no one can know anything at all. As I thought about that, open theism denies God knows everything (although they redefine what that means), but it that is so, then they seemingly destroy the possibility of knowledge. However, the premise that one must know everything in order to know anything needs justification. My question: Is it able to be proven or why is it necessary for one to know everything in order for anyone to know anything?


Puritan Board Graduate
An argument could go something along these lines: Every knowledge system presupposes to be infallibly certain about some set of "facts". These facts are contained in its first principles. Now if one does not know everything, on what basis does one claim infallible certainty? One wont be able to produce such a basis but instead is lead to some arbitrary choice. At that point, one is lead down the road to pragmatism. But pragmatism only works if you know what is in fact the case, so that just pushes back the question one step. Once this is realized, one then eventually goes down the path to skeptism, which is something along the lines, that one "cannot know".

As Christians we realize that we do not know everything but do know someone who does.



Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by natewood3

... However, the premise that one must know everything in order to know anything needs justification. My question: Is it able to be proven or why is it necessary for one to know everything in order for anyone to know anything?

Good question. And it provoked some good responses. From them I think you can see that the answer to the question - can it be proven that one must know everything in order to know anything - is no, it can not.

You had the insight to see that the premise needs to be justified. Leaving it unchallenged begs the question. And in most worldviews, exhaustive knowledge is unnecessary for one to have knowledge. One can know "Jesus was born in Bethlehem", and not know "David was a King of Israel". One can know "Richmond is the capitol of Virginia", and not know "Tuscon is a city in Arizona". And certainty (emotional) is not required for knowledge. I can know that all things work to the good of those who love Christ, even though I don't feel certain that good can come from my friend dying in a terrible car accident. (I know the general truth, even if I am uncertain how that works in a particular case.)

There are worldviews that are skeptical about "epistemic" certainty (not the same as emotional/psychological certainty). And there are worldviews that say certainty is unrelated to knowledge. There are views that say one does not know something unless one is aware of the justification for that knowledge, and others that say that one need never be aware of the justification for some knowledge, as long as it's justified.

But there is no proof that exhaustive knowledge is a necessary prerequisite for particular knowledge. So when comparing worldviews, like Open Theism to Christianity, or Pantheism to Skepticism, one can not use that kind of premise as a decider.

Now it is good to consider the premise as a question - is it necessary for someone to know everything in order for anyone to know anything? And by some worldviews, there is not certain answer. Other's may only consider it as a hypothetical "if". If it is indeed necessary for one to have total knowledge in order to know anything in particular, then.... But even from within a Christian worldview (and most other worldviews) - I think the answer is no, we don't need to know everything to know something.

Thanks again for the interesting question.
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