While commenting on TC Robinson’s Open Letter to an Open Theist, I realised that I had found an interesting analogy which might help to explain some of the complex issues of free will and predestination. Or maybe the whole thing is just far too simplistic.
It is an old analogy to compare the relationship between God and the created world with that between an author and the fictional world of his or her novel. On this analogy God is in full control of the whole storyline, of everything which happens. The characters in the novel may have free will within that fictional world, but in the real world they have no freedom, indeed no independent existence. As I understand it this kind of model corresponds quite well with Calvinism. It is consistent with the compatibilism which Jeremy Pierce finds in Calvinism in that the characters have real free will within their own world. It is hard to argue against such a model. Yet somehow it is not a compelling one because it reduces the dignity of humanity to a set of pawns in the mind of God.
I would like to put forward a rather different model in which God is a blogger! He can post what he likes on his blog, including stories of a world he has created and the people who inhabit it. But my model differs from the one of God as novelist in that human beings, spiritual beings like God, are not just characters described on the blog but also in the same world as God, perhaps “seated in the heavenly places”, and with real free will not controlled by God. As such they are able to read the blog, and, crucially, also have some input into it.
God as a blogger could of course make his blog entirely read-only, as for example Adrian Warnock has done. By doing so he would on my understanding make it not a blog at all. In my model this would correspond with a Calvinist position in which God decides everything, at least in the real world, with human freedom restricted to the world inside the non-blog. This is equivalent to the model of God as novelist. It is perhaps not accidental that non-blogs like this are popular among Calvinists.
But on my preferred version of the model God has chosen, voluntarily, to open up the blog so that others, humans, can interact with him on it. On a real blog that interaction is typically limited to commenting. But on my model the humans can also write the main text, within limits set by God which might include that they can only write or edit posts about themselves. Indeed God might let the humans do most of the posting at least about matters which concern them, getting involved himself only when the humans ask him to or to put things right when they go seriously wrong. Thus what happens in the stories on the blog depends largely on the genuinely free decisions of the humans in God’s world, and not just on what God determines. Actually perhaps a wiki is a better analogy here than a blog.
Nevertheless, God retains complete control of the blog. He can moderate and reverse any edits. He can withdraw access privileges from those who abuse them. He can also write people in and out of the story as and when he wishes. In the blog world he is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
Crucially for the open theism debate, if he decides to do something on the blog, nothing can stop him doing it. This does not mean that he controls everything that happens on the blog. But it does mean that if he announces a plan to do something at a certain time and in a certain way we can be sure that he actually can and will do it, even if in order to do so he has to undo some things which others have done.
I’m not sure how good a model this is of the interaction between God, his creation and humanity. It is certainly not a perfect one. But it may be closer to the truth than the model of God as novelist. And it may address some of the issues which have led to Open Theism, the idea that God doesn’t exhaustively know the future, without following that path to its false conclusion of that God is not omnipotent.